The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 10, 1737-1739. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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Feb. 3. Sir Charles Turner being in the Chair, in the Committee of the whole House, to whom it was referred to consider further of the Supply granted to his Majesty, reported the Resolutions which they had directed him to the House. It was moved,
That the Number of effective Men to be provided for Guards and Garrisons in Great Britain, and for Guernsey and Jersey, for the Year 1738, be, (including one thousand eight hundred and fifteen Invalids, and five hundred fiftyfive Men, which the six independant Companies consist of, for the Service of the Highlands) seventeen thousand seven hundred and four Men; Commission and Non-Commission Officers included. This being objected to, a Debate ensued, on which George Barclay Esq; spoke to the following Purpose:
'It is very extraordinary, that a Resolution like this should be offered to the Committee, after the Multiplicity of Treaties, Conventions, Negotiations, and other Measures that have been lately carried on with almost every Court in Europe. I believe, Sir, there is not a Man in the Nation, except those who are under the Direction and Influence of the Ministry, or in the Secret of Affairs themselves, which I hope never to be, but expected, after we had been so long amused with the fine Effects that our pacifick Measures were to produce, that they at least would be attended with a Reduction of the numerous Forces that are now on Foot: But so far from that, Sir, an Addition, it seems, instead of a Reduction, is to take Place. For my own Part, I never was at Pains to enquire what the proper Number to be reduced is, because I own very frankly, that I have always been against any Standing Army in Time of Peace, as a Thing unknown to the Laws and Constitution of Britain, and destructive to the Liberty of her Subjects. Such, Sir, was always the Language of this House, while we had a Government which understood how to make the Nation formidable Abroad, by preserving to the Prince on the Throne the Love and Affection of his Subjects at Home. But this, Sir, is an Art that seems to have been lost in Great Britain: But if our Ministry have lost the Art of making themselves beloved, they seem resolved to make themselves feared by the People.
I have heard it said, Sir, that if we do not keep up a Standing-Army, every thing must run into Confusion. Sir, I am one of those who think that a Standing Army is worse than the worst Confusion; and if Order is to be preserved amongst us by a Standing Army, I could wish that Things were to run into Confusion, because out of Confusion Order might arise. Therefore, Sir, I am absolutely against the present Motion. But if Gentlemen who have considered the Thing perhaps more than I have done, shall propose a Number which may not be dangerous to the Liberties of the People, I shall not be against the Motion.'
'Gentlemen, when they talk of Negotiations and Treaties, speak as if a Minister were to be as sure of the Success of the Event which depends upon various and impossible to be foreseen Accidents, as he could be of a mathematical Proposition. I am as much against a Minister's running into an idle, or an improbable Scheme of Negociation, and against his amusing the Nation with groundless Hopes of Success, or putting it to unnecessary Expences, as any Gentleman here. But, Sir, Ministers are to answer for the Reasonableness, and not for the Event of their Measures: It is unjust to suppose them to be endued with the Spirit of Prophecy, so as to foresee Contingencies, to prevent Deaths, or guard against every Accident that may happen; and I believe, Sir, if we do not suppose this, and if we coolly and impartially examine the Conduct of our Ministry for some Years past, we shall find they have acted as prudent and as rational a Part, as the wisest Ministers the hon. Gentleman can instance in any Period of our History. Sir, if the hon. Gentleman will engage to shew me one Step made by the Administration that has been unsuccessful purely from the Fault of our Ministers, I will engage to shew him three in any other Reign that he shall be pleased to pitch upon. So that, Sir, unless Gentlemen come to the Point, and instance some particular Part of Conduct that is blameable in our Ministry, all these loose general Reflections must go for nothing; because they may be equally applied to a good, a bad, or an indifferent Ministry. But, Sir, I own this a Deviation from the present Question, which is, Whether the Number moved for, is the Number proper to be kept up at this Juncture? Sir, I have as little Reason as most Gentlemen in this House to wish for the Continuance of any Tax or Imposition upon the People: I am sure I may lose, but never can gain by it. But I am for continuing the present Number of Forces, because at present I enjoy both my Fortune and my Liberty; and should we break or reduce our Forces to the Number the hon. Gentleman seems to wish for, I should not be sure of enjoying either of these Advantages till next Session. This, Sir, I speak from the Experience I daily have of the present Temper and Disposition of the People without Doors. Every Rank and Degree of our Commonalty is so tainted with Dissatisfaction against that Government under which we enjoy Liberty to as full and great a Degree as any People ever did, that I dare say, were it not for our Army, we should soon see our Constitution ruined, and this House rendered useless. In this Sense it is, Sir, I vote for the present Motion; because our Army serves at present to defend both my Fortune and my Liberty: For I dare affirm, that no Man who enjoys either, can be sure of them an Hour longer after Things go into Confusion, or after the Succession to the Crown in the present Royal Family is set aside. I shall not pretend to account to the House for this general Dissatisfaction and Degeneracy; but, Sir, one visible, and I believe, the principal Cause of it, is the exorbitant Liberty, I should rather call it Licentiousness, of the Press. The Press, Sir, give me leave to add, when it is under proper Regulations, is one of the greatest Advantages of a free People; but when prostituted to Dissatisfaction, Ambition, or Revenge, it becomes the Nuisance of a Government. The last, Sir, happens to be the present State of the Liberty of the Press in Great Britain; no Rank or Character has been secure from the invenomed Attacks of the pretended Friends to Liberty; and Sir, as no People in the World are fonder of being acquaint' ed with the Politicks of their Country than ours are, it requires no uncommon Strength of Parts or Genius to debauch them into a bad Opinion of the best Prince or Minister that ever was; it is but telling them, You are the Judges of the Conduct of the Administration; it is you that furnish the Expences of our Fleets and Armies, and therefore the Ministry ought not to make one Step without your Concurrence and Advice. Sir, there is not a Shopkeeper, nay not a Porter in the Streets who does not understand these Arguments, who does not think himself qualified to be a Minister of State, and that he has as good a Title to judge of the Measures of the Government, as any Gentleman in this House, or all the Gentlemen taken together. Any Man who flatters the Vanity of a Mob, will always have that Mob on his Side. This, Sir, seems to be the true, and the only Merit of all the Scribblers against the Government: And if the People feel any Inconveniency from the Number of Forces kept up, it is owing to them; for both Prudence and Necessity oblige the Government not to part with their present Force, for these Writers have but too good Success in poisoning the Minds of the People: I say, Sir, Necessity obliges us to it; for if you continue the Liberty of the Press, so as to protect every Scribler, who perhaps is hired to spirit up the People against their Governors, there is a Necessity that you should continue your Army. But, Sir, I am far from insinuating as if we were in any Danger from the Liberty of the Press: No, it is the Licentiousness of the Authors, and not the Liberty of the Press that we are to dread; and till such Time as some effectual Stop is put to that Licentiousness, I shall be against making any Reduction of our Forces.'
'The honourable Gentleman who spoke first for the Motion, has indeed made the best Excuse for the Ministry that can be made; Ministers are but Men, sometimes weak Men; and though it would be unjust to suppose them endued with a Spirit of Prophecy, yet, I think they should at least be possessed of a tolerable Share of Prudence. I should not indeed wonder if one or two Measures went wrong upon a Minister's Hand, through unavoidable Accidents; yet, I think it strange that every Measure should go wrong, that not one of the numerous Expedients that have been set on Foot for securing the Tranquility of Europe, or providing for the Security of Great Britain, should prove effectual. Sir, I own this gives me strong Apprehensions of what I am not inclined to express on this Occasion. I own that, with the hon. Gentleman who spoke first on this Motion, I was apt to think that the Round of Negotiations and Treaties we have been carrying on for these ten or twelve Years past with all the Powers in Europe, might have procured us at least o me Respite from a Burden which our Forefathers never knew: I mean, Sir, that of a Standing Army; I call it a Standing Army, because it has continued for these many Years, and we have always been told the same Things over and over again, as Reasons why it is continued. I have, during many Years, told the House every Session that we should have a Return of the very same Reasons next Session; but Gentlemen never seemed to believe me, though they have hitherto found my Words but too true. Now, Sir, as the same Causes have subsisted for about these forty Years, without being any worse for the wearing, I am apt to think they may subsist forty Years longer; and while the same Causes subsist, the same Effects must follow; so that in reality a Standing Army may be thought as much a Part of our Constitution, as the most lawful Prerogative, or Privilege, which either Prince or People can claim. But, Sir, though even the Gentlemen who are most conversant in publick Affairs, will, I believe, be puzzled to find out one new Argument in favour of a Standing Army, yet there is nothing easier than to bring twenty against it. The Reason of this, Sir, is because it produces but one single Good, which is the Security of the Administration; but it begets many Inconveniencies, two of which are the impoverishing the People, and the Increase of Taxes.
And here give me leave to say, Sir, that no Country can give more melancholy Instances of the Effects of a military Force than England can. The very Army which was raised by the Parliament in Defence of the Subjects, against some Encroachments made by Charles I. upon their Liberties, afterwards gave Law to the Parliament itself, turn'd its Members out of Doors, rased our Constitution to the Foundation, and brought that unhappy Prince to the Block. This Catastrophe, Sir, was not owing to the People; for of them, nine Parts in ten were well affected to the Person and Cause of the King, but to their Army, which, like other wild Beasts, turn'd upon and destroy'd their Keepers. After the Restoration of the Royal Family, the Prince then upon the Throne rais'd a few Guards, which never swell'd to above 5890, and yet so jealous was the Nation even of that small Number, that he could never get his Parliament, prostitute as it was, to pass over one Session without taking notice of them. This, Sir, was the more extraordinary, as the Parliament was never ask'd for any Money for their Support, and the Money which was then rais'd for the Support of the Government was nothing when compar'd to the Sums that have been granted since. The next Parliament proved as uneasy to him on this Head as the former had been, and were so distrustful of his Intentions, that they appointed Commissioners of their own for applying the Money granted for disbanding them, and it was paid into the Chamber of London. Nay, Sir, as a further Proof of the Apprehensions the Nation was under from a Standing Army, they came to a Resolution, 'That the Continuance of Standing Forces in this Nation, other than the Militia, is illegal, and a great Grievance and Vexation to the People.' I have mentioned this Period of our History, Sir, to shew that notwithstanding the Venality of that very Reign, the Parliament never could be brought to concur with what might one Day overthrow both their own and the People's Liberties. If the Nation was then so jealous of an inconsiderable Number, which did not cost it a Shilling, ought we to consent to keep on Foot so formidable a Number as 18,000? Sir, it is in vain for any Gentleman to say that the Army is under the Direction of a wife and a just Sovereign, who will never harbour a Thought inconsistent with the Good of his Subjects: I am as thoroughly persuaded of his Majesty's personal Virtues as any Gentleman; but an Army, when it once finds its own Power, may very probably refuse to take Laws, even from that very Sovereign under whose immediate Direction they are. The Parliament's Army, Sir, was as absolutely under the Direction of the Parliament in the Time of Charles I. as any Army is now under the Direction of his Majesty, and yet, it is well known, they obeyed Orders no longer than they found it convenient for themselves.
The Period, Sir, from which we are to date the Rise of our Standing Army in Britain, is the 9th Year of the late King William, when the Parliament granted an Army of 10,000 Men for the Service of the current Year. This was done in Consideration of the powerful Faction, at that Time subsisting in the Kingdom in Favour of King James. And if ever a Standing Army can be of Use at any Time, it is at such a Juncture. But nothing, Sir, could make so palpable an Infraction of the Subjects Rights, as established by the Revolution, go down. Tho' this Nation was then bless'd with a Prince that had hazarded every Thing to free us from Oppression and Tyranny, and therefore could never be supposed to have any Designs upon our Constitution; yet many Gentlemen, who were Friends of the Revolution upon Principles of Liberty, with one Consent remonstrated against a Standing Army, tho' but kept up from Year to Year, as subversive of the People's Rights, and of the Revolution Principles.
Some I know, Sir, who appear'd early for the Revolution, were so much delighted with the Sunshine of a Court, that they join'd in all its Measures, tho' some of them were found to be directly opposite to the Principles upon which the Revolution was founded; but we find that they who were ever acknowledged to be the sincere Well-wishers of that Cause, forsook them, and could never be brought to concur with them in any one Measure. On this Account, Sir, these Gentlemen were branded by some, who then sate in the House, with the Names of Jacobites and Republicans, two Denominations of Men equally Enemies to the present Establishment. But, Sir, there was this Difference betwixt their Antagonists and them, that the former never refus'd to concur with any Measure proposed by the Court, and the latter never voted for any Step that was dislik'd by their Country.
Their late Deliverance from a Prince, who, by Means of his Army, aimed at arbitrary Power, made them look back with so much Horror upon the Precipice they had just escaped, that there was an express Proviso against Standing Armies in Times of Peace inserted in the Claim of Right, which we may in some Measure call the last great Charter of our Liberty. I own that it gives me great Concern to see Gentlemen, who have always valued themselves upon treading in the Footsteps of those who brought about the Revolution, act a Part so inconsistent with the Principles of their Ancestors, by voting for this Question. I know a Set of Men under a different Denomination, who have always been more moderate in their Pretences, but more steady in their Adherence to these Principles. I am not at all inclined to revive any Party Distinctions; but I will venture to say, Sir, that let any Man compare the Conduct of some Gentlemen who have affected to pass for Whigs, with that of Gentlemen who have always been looked upon as Tories, he shall find the latter acting a Part most consistent with the Revolution Principles. He will find them opposing the Crown in every Encroachment upon the People, and in every Infringement of the Claim of Right. He will never find them complimenting the Crown at the Expence of the People, when in Post, nor distressing it by opposing any reasonable Measure when out. Can some Gentlemen, Sir, who now affect to call themselves Whigs, boast of such an Uniformity of Conduct? Can they say that Times and Circumstances never influenc'd the Measures they pursued? or that when they were in Posts, they always acted in Consequence of the Principles they professed when they were out? Sir, I believe I have sat long enough in this House, to convince Gentlemen, if there were Occasion, of very great Inconsistencies in certain Characters. But, Sir, I forbear it, because the Eyes of some of these Gentlemen seem to be now open, and I hope these Distinctions are, in a great Measure, either entirely abolished or better understood.
As no Question, Sir, is of greater Importance, so none has been so frequently debated in this House, as the present. Yet I never heard any Gentleman make a Doubt that a Standing Army in Time of Peace was a Grievance to the People of Britain. But, Sir, the Tories always opposed this Grievance: When his late Majesty had, upon the Rebellion against him being suppress'd, for the Ease of his Subjects, order'd 10,000 of the Troops to be disbanded, I remember a particular Friend of mine, who always passed for a Tory, proposed that it should be inserted in our Address to his Majesty on that Occasion, That nothing could more endear his Majesty to all his Subjects, than the reducing the Land Forces to the old Establishment of Guards and Garrisons, as his Majesty found it at his Accession to the Throne. This, Sir, happen'd in the fourth Year of his late Majesty's Reign, and had the Amendment proposed by my Friend been agreed to, had his Majesty thought fit to have made the proposed Reduction, or, rather, had he been advised by his Ministers to have done it, and had the military Establishment continued on that Footing till now, we should have discharg'd upwards of twelve Millions of our national Debt, and yet have enabled his Majesty to have made good such Engagements with his Allies, as tended to secure the publick Tranquility.
As to what the honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, mentioned with regard to restraining the Liberty of the Press, and concerning the general Depravity that obtains among the People, I shall leave him to be answered by other Gentlemen, who can do it much better than I. But, I agree with the honourable Gentleman so far, as to own that the People are at present very much dissatisfied; and, as I think, that Ferment ought to subside gradually, I am willing to give my Vote for a larger Number of forces this Session, than perhaps I may think necessary to be kept up the next. I therefore move, that the Number of Land Forces for the Service of the current Year may be twelve thousand Men.
Lord Noel Somereset
'As the Question now before you is a Question of such Importance, as that every Gentleman who votes in it, ought thoroughly to understand the Nature of our Constitution, I must beg leave to explain to you what I take to be the true and genuine Form of our Government, before I attempt to give my Opinion upon the Question. I know there are many Gentlemen in this House who understand our Constitution better than I can pretend to; I believe every one understands it as well, and I hope every one has as great a Regard for it: But I think myself obliged to explain to you the Notions I have of our Constitution, because most of the Arguments I shall make use of in Favour of the present Question, are such as naturally flow from these Notions; and if I am wrong in any of them, I am sure I cannot utter them in a Place where I can expect to have them corrected with more Ability, or with greater Candour.
'Government, Sir, is an Evil which the perverse Nature of some has obliged all to submit to. Mankind, for the Sake of preserving their Lives, and the Fruits of their Labour, against the Invasions of the Wicked and Rapacious, have been obliged to form themselves into Societies, and to promise Obedience to the Civil Magistrate; but that which was intended for protecting the People of the Society, is often made use of for their Oppression; and instead of being a Bridle upon the Inclinations of the Wicked, it often serves to strengthen their Hands, by tying up those of the Innocent. To prevent this fatal Effect, many Sorts of Governments have been invented by Men, all of which may be resolved into these three, to wit, the Monarchical, the Aristocratical, or the Democratical; for every Form of Government must either be a Monarchy, an Aristocracy, or a Democracy; or it must be a Mixture of some two of these, or of all the three.
'By Experience, Sir, it has been found, that when the supreme Power is lodged either in a sole Monarch, or in a Set of Nobles, it often deviates into Tyranny; and that when it is lodged in the People in general, there is no Possibility of preventing it from running into Anarchy; and the next Step which follows is commonly a monarchical or aristocratical Tyranny; especially, if the People of the Society be numerous, and their Dominions extensive. For this Reason many various Sorts of Mixtures have been contrived by Lawgivers; but of all the Mixtures that ever were contrived, that of an equal Mixture of the three, is, I believe, the best, and most lasting. How our Ancestors, the Germans, hit upon this Mixture; whether it proceeded from their Experience, or from their natural Sagacity, I shall not pretend to determine; but, it is certain, that from the earliest Accounts we have of them, this appears to have been the Form of Government generally established among them. The supreme Power among them was always lodged in an Assembly of their King or General, their Nobles or Chiefs of Families, and their People or Soldiers in general. In this Assembly all Matters of great Importance were considered and determined; the King and Nobles proposed and resolved, and the People consented or disapproved. The Powers and Privileges of these three Branches of their Legislature, were not perhaps so distinctly ascertained as they are by the present Form of our Constitution; or if they were, no certain Account of them has been handed down to us; but it is plain that the same Spirit, upon which our present Constitution is founded, was the prevailing Spirit in their Form of Government; and this Spirit may be traced from the Beginning of our History to this very Day.
'The Spirit I mean, Sir, is, to have in our Form of Government such an equal Mixture of the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical Forms of Government, that each may prove a proper Counterpoise to the other, in such a Manner, as that all these three constituent Powers may continue equal and independant. If they do, any one of them may, and always will, be a Guard for our Constitution and for our People, against the Violence and Oppression of both, or either of the other two. If our King should resolve to make himself absolute, or if he and his Ministers should begin to oppress the People, both this and the other House would certainly join together, in opposing such Schemes; if the other House should begin to set themselves up as sovereign and arbitrary Masters of our Government, the King and this House would certainly join against them; and if this House, as perhaps has been the Case, should begin to set ourselves up as Masters, the King and the House of Lords would as certainly join against us, and probably, by Means of a Dissolution and new Election, be able to prevent every fatal Consequence. Again, if any two of these Branches of our Legislature, should join together in any Scheme for oppressing the People, they could not carry their Scheme effectually into Execution without the Concurrence of the Third; but on the contrary, that third Branch of our Legislature, with the Assistance of the People, would probably be able not only to disappoint, but to punish the Authors of such a Scheme.
'Therefore, Sir, while our Constitution remains entire, while the three constituent Parts of our Form of Government remain equal and independant, our People can never be oppressed, nor can a barefaced arbitrary Power ever be established. From hence every one may see, that from our Constitution, considered in itself, without any undue Influence, we can have nothing to apprehend; the only Danger we are exposed to, is, that of its Dissolution; and for this Reason we ought to consider carefully, and guard watchfully against all those Methods by which it may be overturned. The only Methods by which our Constitution can be overturned, and consequently the only Evils we have to guard against, is left any one of the Branches of our Legislature should get the absolute Direction of the other two, and lest any one, by a Dissolution or Discontinuance of the other two, should be able to assume to itself an absolute and arbitrary Power. As the Power of calling, proroguing, and dissolving the Parliament, is lodged intirely in the Crown, as the Execution of our Laws, is now more fully and extensively lodged in the Crown, than it was by the antient Form of our Constiution, and as his Majesty is provided with a very large Revenue for Life, I cannot think there is the least Danger, that either House of Parliament will become able to prescribe to the other and to the King; therefore, we are at present in no Danger of either House of Parliament's ever getting the absolute Direction of the other two Branches of our Legislature, as was once the Case in this Nation.
'But, Sir, that the Crown may be able to get the absolute Direction of both Houses of Parliament, and may consequently make both intirely dependant upon the King, or rather upon the King's Ministers, for the Time being, I must think we are at present in some Danger: Nay, I must say, I think we are in such Danger, that I am afraid nothing preserves us from it but his Majesty's known Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation. I have, I confess, such a bad Opinion of Mankind, that I believe the Generality of them will sacrifice the publick Good for their private Advantage, often for a very trifling private Advantage, especially when they can do it, without bringing immediate Infamy and Reproach upon themselves. This, I am sorry to say it, is my Opinion of the Generality of Mankind; and considering what vast Sums of Money, and what a vast Number of lucrative Posts and Employments, of all Sorts and Sizes, the Crown has to bestow yearly, and what extensive Powers have been put into the Hands of the Crown, by the many penal Laws lately enacted, I am much afraid that if his Majesty would allow his Ministers to apply them towards managing and purchasing Votes at Elections, or even in Parliament, it would soon come to be in the Power of the Crown to direct both Houses of Parliament; for if the Voting at Elections, or in Parliament, from corrupt Considerations, should once come to be frequent, the Frequency of the Crime would extenuate the Guilt, and the Multitude of Criminals would smother that Reproach, which now so deservedly attends such an infamous Practice.
'By such Means, Sir, and by such a general Depravity, the Crown may acquire a decisive Influence, if not the absolute Direction of both Houses of Parliament; and if it should, our Constitution would be undone, our Government would become an absolute and an arbitrary Tyranny; it would become one of the worst, one of the most oppressive and wicked Sorts of Tyranny; because the Crown would be obliged to oppress the People, in order to be able to corrupt the Electors, that at least the outward Show of our antient Constitution may be kept up. This, I say, Sir, would be our Case, if the Crown, by Means of Posts and Employments, and other Favours it has to bestow, should get the absolute Direction of both Houses of Parliament; and every Gentleman knows how greatly our Army adds to the Number of those lucrative Posts and Employments, and what an Influence the Commissions in our Army may have upon some of the best Families in the Kingdom; a Consideration that of itself is sufficient to put Gentlemen upon their Guard against too numerous a Standing Army.
'But, Sir, with respect to the Safety of our Constitution, this is not the only bad Effect of keeping up a large Standing Army. Suppose that some future King, for we can be in no such Danger from the present, should by corrupt Means get the absolute Direction of both Houses of Parliament, and that by the same Means he should disappoint the People of obtaining Redress upon a new Election, what could the People then do for vindicating their Liberties and restoring their Constitution? They could not propose to do it by any legal Means; they could have no Recourse to any thing but the Ultima Ratio Regum, which upon this Occosion I shall beg Leave to call the Ultima Ratio Populi. No Man could then, either for the Preservation of his Life, his Liberty, or his Estate, put his Trust in the Laws or Constitution of his Country; he could put his Trust in nothing but the Success of his Arms; and if the People, upon so just an Occasion, should fly to Arms, what an Advantage would the tyrannical Government have over them, by having a numerous mercenary Army, well disciplined, well armed, and ready to march at an Hour's Warning, against any Number of the People that should dare to assemble in Arms, for vindicating the Liberties and Constitution of their Country. This every future Government, Sir, will be sure of having, if we shall thus every Year, without any apparent Necessity; agree to continue so great a Number of Forces on Foot; because then a Standing Army will soon be look'd upon as a Part of the Constitution. Gentlemen may exclaim as much as they please against Mobs, Tumults, and Insurrections: I shall grant it as an unlucky Thing for a Country to have any such; but it is rather a Sign of the Government's wanting Wisdom and Justice, than of their Want of Power, because Insurrections are most frequent in the most arbitrary Governments. In a free Country, an Insurrection may become just and necessary, and if you give your Government a Power sufficient for suppressing such an Insurrection, the same Power must necessarily be sufficient for establishing arbitrary Power; from that Time, perhaps, you may not be troubled with any Insurrections among the People; the only Insurrections you are then to dread, are Insurrections among those Slaves, or, if you will, that Soldiery which you maintain for holding the People in Slavery; and these Insurrections will be as frequent, and as dangerous to those in Power, as the Insurrections among a free People can possibly be.
'Let us consider, Sir, that since all our military Tenures have been annihilated, and our People become altogether unaccustomed to military Discipline, and unprovided with Arms, a much less numerous Standing Army may now be sufficient, for keeping the People in a slavish Subjection, than would have been necessary for such a Purpose in former Times. If the Case I have mentioned should happen, if an ambitious Prince, or wicked Minister, should manage so as to get, by corrupt Methods, the absolute Direction of both Houses of Parliament, and that there were no Method left for vindicating the Rights and Liberties of the Nation, but by Force of Arms; give me Leave to say, Sir, that by the Revolution Principles, it would be very lawful to resist such a Government; but if it had a Standing Army to support it, they could not be able. And if they should attempt to do it and fail, every Man amongst them would be as liable to be hanged and forfeited by Law, as those who enter into any Plot against the most just and lawful Government; therefore, it would be extremely dangerous, I believe absolutely impossible, to carry on any general Concert, or to provide Arms for such a Purpose; and as there is now no great Man, nor, I believe, any two great Men, in the Kingdom, who are able to bring any considerable Number of armed Men into the Field, without a previous Concert for that Purpose among a great Number of Persons, therefore it will always be easy for our Government, with a small Number of regular Troops, to crush any Insurrection before it can come to a Head; whereas, whilst our military Tenures continued, any two or three of our great Men joining together could, without any previous Preparation, or communicating the Secret to any other Person, bring a numerous Army of well disciplined and well armed Men into the Field against the Government; so that a Standing Army cannot be said to be so necessary now as it was then, and yet our Government was then supported, our Laws executed, and the Peace of the Kingdom preserved, under every just and wife Administration, without a Standing Army, as well as it has been since, or will, I believe, ever be, with the most numerous Standing Army we can propose to keep up. The only Difference is, that in former Times, if the People did not find a proper Redress in the Laws and Constitution of their Country, they generally found it in the Superiority of their Arms; but if they give those Arms out of their Hands, and put them into the Hands of a Standing Army, they can, upon such a melancholy Occasion, no where expect Redress; for the very Men, in whose Hands they have put their Arms, will always be under the Direction of those against whom they have Reason to complain.
'From what I have said, Sir, I hope it appears to Gentlemen, that the Preservation of our Constitution, and the Happiness of our People, can depend upon nothing but the Honour of the Gentlemen of our Army; and whatever Regard and Esteem I may have for those who are at present the Officers of our Army, yet when I consider how easy it is for a wicked Minister to garble and make the Army fit for his Purpose, I must think the Honour of a mercenary Army but a precarious Dependance; a Dependance which the People of this Nation ought never to rely on, because, by our present Establishment, that Army must be under the absolute Direction and Command of that Sort of Men, who have always been, and always will be, the greatest Enemies to our Liberties and Constitution.
'I have now, I think, shewn, Sir, that a Standing Army may be extremely proper, not only for enabling some future King to get the absolute Direction of both Houses of Parliament, but also for preserving to him that Direction against the only Method the People can, in such a Case, take for regaining their Liberties, and restoring their Constitution; therefore a standing Army may greatly contribute towards rendering fatally successful, one of the Methods by which I have said our Constitution may be overturned; I mean, that of one of the Branches of our Legislature's getting the absolute Direction of the other two. Let me now consider the only other Method, by which I have said our Constitution may be over-turned, which is, that of one of the Branches of our Legislature's assuming to itself an absolute and arbitrary Power, by the Dissolution or Discontinuance of the other two.
'Here likewise, Sir, I must think our Constitution not in the least Danger from either House of Parliament; because the King can put an End to their assembling, by a Prorogation or Dissolution, whenever he has a Mind; and because no such Thing can be done without an Army, the General of which would very probably do the same Thing Oliver Cromwell did; therefore we can hardly suppose that either House of Parliament can, or will attempt any such Thing: But if ever our Parliaments should become refractory, and begin to oppose the Measures of the Court, or attempt to bring to Justice any of those Minions who they have Reason to think have advised their Master to take unconstitutional Measures, we have great Reason from Experience to apprehend, the Court Favourites would do as they have always done; they would endeavour to persuade the King to dissolve the Parliament, and to assume to himself an arbitrary Power, by governing without any Parliament at all. This has been often before attempted, and it must be granted, the Crown has now a greater Probability of Success in this Way, than it ever had before, because of the great Revenue now settled upon the Crown, and the great Revenue yearly coming into the Exchequer, for paying the Interest and Principal of our publick Debts; for after a Minister has passed the Rubicon, by advising a King to reign without a Parliament, he will certainly make as little Scruple to seize upon the sacred publick Treasure of Britain, as Julius Cæsar did to seize upon that of Rome.
'Under his present Majesty we have not, 'tis true, Sir, any such Danger to apprehend; beause his Wisdom and Goodness, and the Regard he has for our Constitution, will always be more than a Balance for any such wicked Advice. He will consider, that, tho' by our Constitution the King can be guilty of no Crime, yet by endeavouring to overturn the Constitution, in order to skreen a favourite Criminal, he may bring the Resentment of the People upon himself, and that the People's Resentment may, upon such an Occasion, exceed the Bounds of our Constitution. But as the same Civil List Revenue will, unless some very favourable Opportunity shall present for lessening it, probably be continued to his Majesty's Successors, and as the same Taxes must be continued, I'm afraid, for many Years, before all our publick Debts can be paid off, therefore the Crown and the Exchequer will, perhaps, for several Generations, be provided with the same yearly Revenues; and as we cannot promise ourselves the Happiness, that all his Majesty's Successors will be indued with the same Wisdom and Goodness, we ought not to add to these Temptations, the Temptation of having a numerous Standing Army to depend on. Give me leave, Sir, to suppose, that the House of Commons, in some future Reign, should enter into a strict Enquiry, with respect to some of the Measures of the Administration; that upon the Issue of such an Enquiry they should order some of the Ministers to be impeached; and that those Ministers, for their own Preservation, should advise the King to dissolve the Parliament, and seize upon all our Funds: The most powerful Argument an honest Man at Court (if there should be any such) could use against this Advice, would be to say: 'Sir, if you do this, your People will take Arms against you; the City of London will rise in Arms, and perhaps tear you as well as your Ministers to Pieces.' Would not it be a good Answer to say? 'No, Sir, you have nothing to fear from your People; they are unaccustomed to Arms, and unacquainted with military Discipline; you have a numerous and well disciplined Army to depend on; and if any of the Officers should hesitate in the least to obey your Orders, you may have them immediately shot, and give their Commissions to their Serjeants or Corporals: You may protect your own Honour, and the Lives of your faithful Servants, by means of your Army; whereas if you make a Sacrifice of any one of us to a factious Parliament, you do not know when or where they will stop.' This, Sir, would certainly be the Answer that would be made by guilty Ministers; and I must leave Gentlemen to consider, what an Effect it might have upon a weak King, and a guilty Cabinet Council.
'Now, Sir, give me leave to suppose, what I hope never shall happen, that any future weak King should follow such a wicked Advice: What Remedy could the People have? What Method could they take for vindicating their Liberties and Privileges? Would it be possible to contrive any other Method than that of open Force? And in the Circumstances the Nation is now in, can we suppose that such a Method would be practicable, if the Court had an Army of 18 or 20,000 well disciplined mercenary Troops to depend on? It signifies nothing to say, that the Mutiny Act would expire; or that the Land Tax and Malt Tax Acts would expire; and that therefore the Court could not keep the Army in Order, nor be able to support the publick Expence, and pay the yearly Interest growing due to the Creditors of the Publick: The Court would immediately set up the Doctrine already too frequently talked of by some unthinking Men, 'That the People were become so factious and seditious, there was no governing them but by arbitrary Power; and that therefore it was become necessary to give the Force of a Law to his Majesty's Proclamation. This Doctrine would be propagated through the Kingdom, by the Placemen and Officers almost of every Rank and Degree; it would be greedily swallowed, I believe, by most of those called Soldiers of Fortune in the Army; and I am afraid most Men would chuse to submit patiently to an Evil, for which they could not in all human Probability see any Remedy, and which there would be great Danger in opposing. The Mutiny Act, the Land Tax Act, and the Malt Tax Act, would be continued by Proclamation: And what Soldier would dare to dispute the Continuance of the first, if immediate Death were to be the certain Consequence of every such Obstinacy, or Mutiny, as it would then be called? What landed Gentleman, or what Master, would refuse paying his Quota of the Land Tax, or the Malt Tax, if the Collectors and Officers were every where to come attended with a Troop of Dragoons, or a Company of Foot? Even the Interest payable to the Creditors of the Publick, upon those Debts that were contracted to preserve our Liberties, would be made Premiums for enforcing the Measures of the Court; for if the Court could pay, or refuse to pay Interest to whomsoever they pleased, we may depend on it, they would pay no Interest but to such as shewed themselves peaceable, obedient, and loyal Subjects,
'Thus, Sir, I think it must appear, that without a Standing Army, our Constitution cannot possibly be irrecoverably overturned; and that with a numerous Standing Army, it may be in the Power of the Court to overturn it whenever they have a Mind: At the same Time I am not against our keeping up as many Troops as may be found absolutely necessary for guarding us against any Insult from abroad, or any Disturbance at home. But I am fully convinced, that 18,000 is a much greater Number than is necessary; for I hope it will not be said, we ought to keep up such a Number as may be sufficient to defeat the most just and general Insurrection of the People; and 12,000 is, I am sure, more than sufficient for apprehending Smugglers, or seizing smuggled Goods, for quelling any Mob that can happen, or even for defeating any unjust and seditious Insurrection; because if a Spirit of Sedition should begin to appear in any particular Part of the Kingdom, the greatest Number of the Troops must be quartered in that Corner; and if a small Number of Men should unexpectedly fly to Arms in any Corner, it will always be easy for the Government to augment their Army, and provide for their Defence, faster than the Rebels can assemble, or provide for attacking them. This, I say, Sir, will always be the Case, unless the Discontent should become general and violent all over the Kingdom; and in that Case the People must be pacified by a Change of Ministers, or a Change of Measures: In such a Case some soft and peaceable Measures must be made use of for satisfying the People, and for removing those Grievances they may have Reason to complain of, which a free and independant Parliament will always be able to effectuate; for surely no Man will say, that for the Security of those who have, by their Folly or Wickedness, raised such a general Discontent, we ought to give them such an Army as may enable them to overturn our Constitution; because, as the Security of such Men must always be absolutely inconsistent with our Constitution, they will therefore certainly make use of that Army for its Overthrow.
'The chief Expeditions upon which our Army has been of late employed, have been against Smugglers and Mobs; but Sir, an Army of 12,000 Men will always be more than sufficient for quelling them. Therefore the only Reason that can be assigned for keeping up a greater Number, is the Danger we may be in from foreign Invasions. As to this, Sir, if we consider our happy Situation, and the formidable Squadrons of Men of War we are able to put to Sea upon a few Days Warning, we cannot possibly think ourselves in any Danger, as long as the Government retains the Hearts and Affections of the People; for surely it cannot be said, that a foreign Army of 4 or 5000 Men, even with the Assistance of some few of our Countrymen, who may then happen to be disaffected or seditiously inclined, would be able to conquer these three Kingdoms; and if any of our Neighbours should think of invadiug us with a much greater Number, they could not do it without several Months previous Preparation, which we would certainly hear of, and by sending out a superior Squadron, might lock them up in their Ports, or sink most of their Ships before they could approach our Coasts; and in the mean Time, we would have an Opportunity of raising a Land Army sufficient to give them a proper Reception, in case, by any Accident, they should have the good Luck to escape our Fleet at Sea.
For this Reason, Sir, I must be of Opinion, we can never be in any Danger of an Invasion, as long as our Government takes Care, by a just and wise Administration, to cultivate and retain the Affections of our People; and if our People should, from the Folly or Wickedness of an Administration, become generally discontented, the Parliament; while it continues free and independant, will always be able to remove that Discontent, by giving Satisfaction to the People, and inflicting condign Punishment upon those who have been the Causes of their Discontent. From whence I must conclude, that the keeping up of more than 12,000 Men in this Island, can never be necessary for the Support of any Government, but such a one as has overturned our Constitution, either by corrupting our Parliaments, or by ruling without any Parliament at all.'
Sir R. Walpole.
'That the Question now before you is a Question of great Importance I shall readily agree, and therefore it is with great Concern, it is even with Reluctance I attempt to speak upon it. I am convinced no Reduction of our Forces ought to be made; I am convinced the same Number we now have ought to be kept up, at least for this ensuing Year; and yet I do not well know how to give my Reasons, or how to express myself on such an Occasion: For as a Standing Army must always be expensive, and if it swells to too great a Number, may be dangerous to the People, I could wish with all my Heart that no such Thing were ever necessary; but if we consider the present Circumstances of this Nation, and the present Circumstances of every one of our Neighbours, we must view a Standing Army in the same Light, in which the honourable Gentleman has told us Society, or Government itself ought to be viewed; we must look upon it as an Evil which we are obliged to submit to, for the Sake of avoiding a greater.
'The honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, Sir, has given us a very ingenious, and, I believe, a very just Description of our Constitution, and has with great Judgment pointed out to us the Dangers to which we are, or may be exposed; but I cannot think a Standing Army, constituted as our present Army is, can be of any such dangerous Consequence to our Constitution as he has represented, were it much more numerous than it is at present. An Army composed intirely of our own Subjects, and commanded by Gentlemen of the best Families, and some of them of the best Estates in the Kingdom, and an Army depending for its very Being upon the annual Consent of Parliament, can no way contribute towards rendering the Parliament altogether dependent upon the King or his Ministers, nor can it contribute towards enabling the King to govern without any Parliament at all. While our Parliament meet regularly once a Year, and are rechosen once every seven Years, no Gentleman of the Army can propose to have a Seat in Parliament, unless he be a Man of Family and Fortune in his Country; and though a Commission in the Army may perhaps, and I hope always will, make such a Gentleman join with more Alacrity than he would otherwise do, in supporting the Government against factious Complaints, or seditious Insurrections; yet no Commission will ever make such a Man give his Consent to any thing in Parliament, which he may think oppressive upon the People, or which may, in his Opinion, tend towards overturning our Constitution.
'As every such Officer must have a great many Friends and Relations among the People, his Regard for his Friends and Relations will prevent his joining in oppressive Measures for the Support of any Administration; and as the Happiness and Security of his Friends and Relations, nay of his own Property, depends upon the Preservation of our Constitution, it cannot be supposed he will, for the Sake of any Commission he can enjoy or expect, give his Vote in Parliament for any Measure that may evidently tend towards the Overthrow of our Constitution. Therefore, while our Army is commanded by such Gentlemen as it is at present, 'tis not to be supposed it can contribute towards breaking the Balance of the Constitution; no Sort of Garbling, Sir, can be sufficient for this Purpose, because if the Commissions in our Army should be given to Men of no Families or Fortunes, it would be impossible to get any great Number of them brought into Parliament.
'The only remaining Danger therefore is, that our Army may enable some future King to govern without any Parliament at all; and as this would be a total Overthrow of our Constitution at once, it cannot be supposed that Gentlemen of Families or Fortunes would unanimously join in supporting such a Government: On the contrary, we must both from Reason and Experience suppose, that the greatest Number of them would declare for their Country, and would join in proper Measures for restoring the Constitution, and bringing to Justice those Ministers who had attempted its Overthrow. This, I say, Sir, we must suppose would be the Behaviour of most of those Gentlemen of Families or Fortunes, who might at such an unlucky Juncture be Officers in our Army; and as they will always have a great Sway among the other Officers and Soldiers, we have no Reason to doubt that they would be followed, as they were in the Case of King James's Attempt to subvert our Liberties, by the greatest Part of our Army. From whence, I have, I think, good Reason to conclude; that whilst our Army is commanded, as it is at present, by Gentlemen of the best Families and Fortunes in the Kingdom, it will always be so far from being dangerous to our Constitution, that it must be look'd on as one of its greatest Securities.
'An Army, Sir, of foreign mercenary Troops, or an Army composed of the Scum of the People, and commanded by Men of no Families or Fortunes in the Country, may contribute towards enabling a Government to oppress the People, or to divest them of their Liberties and Privileges; and by such Armies only an arbitrary and oppressive Government can be supported. It was not, Sir, by an Army entirely composed of Roman Citizens that Julius Cæsar overturned the Liberties of Rome: It was by an Army which consisted, in a great Measure, of the Inhabitants of those Countries which had been conquered by the Romans; and that Army was commanded chiefly by Romans of mean Families, or such as depended entirely upon the Fortune and Favour of their General. By such an Army it was that Rome was brought into Slavery, and by such Armies the Romans were afterwards held in Slavery; for the Roman Emperors had always great Bodies of People, who were neither Natives of Rome, nor of Italy, in their Pay, and by their Means they kept in Awe such of the Roman Armies, as afterwards appeared in the least inclined towards restoring the Liberties of the Country.
'At this Day, Sir, the arbitrary and tyrannical Government of Turkey is chiefly supported by an Army of Janizaries; an Army of Men who are so far from having any Relations among the People, that few or none of them know who were their Parents, or what Country they were born in: And in our neighbouring Country of France, we know that they have always great Bodies of foreign Troops in their Pay, who have no Relations among the People of France, nor any Knowledge of, or Concern for, the antient Form of Government in that Kingdom. But as they have likewise a great Army of Natives, and that Army generally commanded by Men of the best Families in the Kingdom, therefore, tho' their present Form of Government be absolute, yet it is not so arbitrary and tyrannical as that in Turkey; for if their Government should begin to oppress their People in a tyrannical Manner, I believe every Gentleman who knows the Dispositions of the French Officers, will allow that the greatest Part of the native French Officers and Soldiers would certainly join with the People, and would probably get the better of such a Government, tho' supported by all the foreign Troops they have in their Pay; so that the present Government of France may be properly said to be supported by the Justice and Wisdom of its Measures, rather than by its Standing Army, or the Absoluteness of its Form; and while the Government in this Kingdom follows the same Sort of Measures, it certainly ought to be supported not only by our Army, but also by our Parliament.
'The only Danger, therefore, Sir, we are exposed to by Means of our Army, is, lest some future ambitious King, or wicked Minister, should garble our Army, so as to make it fit for destroying the Liberties of the People, and supporting an arbitrary and tyrannical Rule. This is a Danger we must always remain exposed to, as long as we keep up any Thing like a Standing Army; but this is a Danger which, I think, we are sufficiently guarded against, and, I hope, ever shall be, both by the Method in which our present Army is kept up, and by the Smallness of its Number. As our present Army is kept up only from Year to Year, by Authority of Parliament; if this Method of Garbling should be begun before the End of a Session of Parliament, that very Session could, and certainly would, not only take notice of it, but contrive some Method for preventing it; and in this the Parliament would certainly have the Concurrence and Assistance of every Gentleman of the Army, who happened then to have the Honour of being a Member of either House; for as they would probably be the first Sufferers by such a Garbling, they would be the most forward in taking Measures to prevent it. Again, if this Garbling should not be begun till after the Session of Parliament was broke up, it must be compleated before the Lady-Day following; because all the Gentlemen of Family or Estate who might then be in the Army, would, after the Lady-Day following, certainly refuse to act as Officers, without a new Authority from Parliament; and if all the Officers of Distinction in the Army should be turned out at once, or in eight or nine Months Time, they would certainly join with the People in vindicating the Rights of their Country; and their Sway in the Army would for some Time after their Dismission remain so considerable, that in Case of a Civil War's breaking out, which would certainly be the Case that very Moment the Government pretended to continue the Army without the Consent of the Parliament, most of the Soldiers would in all Probability desert their new Officers, in order to follow their old; by which Means the regular Troops would come to be at least equally divided; and the People, with the Assistance of one Half of the Army, would in all human Appearance get the better of the other Half, which remained attached to the Government.
'But granting Sir, that some future ambitious King, or wicked Minister should resolve to govern without a Parliament, and to continue the Army without any new Authority from Parliament; and likewise suppose that that Army should, every Man of them, Officer as well as Soldier, remain firmly attached to the Government, and unanimously join in supporting such an usurp'd and tyrannical Power, against those Efforts which would certainly be made by the People, for recovering the Liberties and Constitution of their Country; yet a Body of 18000 of the best regular Troops that ever were in the World, would never be sufficient for supporting a Government against the united Force of the whole People of Great Britain: For tho' a small Number of regular well-disciplined Troops may, and do often, get the better of a much superior Number of Militia, or new-raised and undisciplined Troops, yet 18000. Men could not stand against so many Thousands of good Men, tho' not experienced Soldiers, as could be brought against them from the several Counties of Great Britain: Even suppose they should get the better at the two or three first Battles or Rencounters, yet their Enemies would improve by every Defeat; so that, as the Swedes did in the last War with the Muscovites, they might beat their Enemy into good Discipline, and by often defeating them, might teach them how to defeat in their Turn.
'From what I have said, Sir, it must appear, that our Constitution can never be in Danger of being overturned by Means of an Army, constituted as our present Army is, and not more numerous than that we have now on Foot. Such an Army only preserves the Constitution against Faction and Disaffection, and protects the People against domestick Rapines and foreign Invasions. And such an Army, Sir, I am afraid will always be necessary to be kept up here. This naturally leads me to consider the several Reasons we may now have, for keeping up the same Number of regular Forces we have at present; and as I have mentioned Disaffection, 'I shall begin with that Reason, which proceeds from the great Number of disaffected Persons we have still the Misfortune to have amongst us. Suppose, Sir, we have at present nothing to fear from any foreign Enemy, yet it cannot be said we are in absolute Security, or that we have nothing to fear. There is one Thing I am still afraid of, and it is, indeed, the only Thing, I think, we have at present to fear. Whether it be proper to mention it upon this Occasion, I do not know: I do not know, if I ought to mention it in such an Assembly as this: I am sure there is no Necessity for mentioning it, because I am convinced every Gentleman that hears me is as much afraid of it as I am. The Fear I mean, is that of the Pretender: Every one knows there is still a Pretender to his Majesty's Crown and Dignity; there is still a Person who pretends to be lawful and rightful Sovereign of these Kingdoms; and, what makes the Misfortune much the more considerable, there are still a great Number of Persons in these Kingdoms so much deluded by his Abettors, as to think in the same Way. These are the only Persons who can properly be called disaffected, and they are still so numerous, that though this Government had not a foreign Enemy under the Sun, the Danger we are in from the Pretender, and the disaffected Part of our own Subjects, is a Danger which every true Briton ought to fear, a Danger which every Man who has a due Regard for our present happy Establishment, will certainly endeavour to provide against as much as he can.
'I am sorry to see, Sir, that this is a Sort of Fear, which a great many amongst us endeavour to turn into Ridicule, and for that Purpose they tell us, that though there are many of our Subjects discontented and uneasy, there are but very few disaffected; but I must beg leave to be of a different Opinion; for, I believe, most of the Discontents and Uneasinesses that appear among the People, proceed originally from Disaffection. No Man of common Prudence will profess himself openly a Jacobite; by so doing he not only may injure his private Fortune, but he must render himself less able to do any effectual Service to the Cause he has embraced; therefore there are but very few such Men in the Kingdom. Your right Jacobite, Sir, disguises his true Sentiments; he roars out for Revolution Principles; he pretends to be a great Friend to Liberty, and a great Admirer of our antient Constitution; and under this Pretence there are Numbers who every Day endeavour to sow Discontents among the People, by persuading them that the Constitution is in Danger, and that they are unnecessarily loaded with many and heavy Taxes. These Men know that Discontent and Disaffection are like Wit and Madness: They are separated by thin Partitions; and therefore they hope, that if they can once render the People thoroughly discontented, it will be easy for them to render them disaffected. These are the Men we have most Reason to be afraid of: They are, I'm afraid, more numerous than most Gentlemen imagine, and I wish I could not say they have been lately joined, and very much assisted by some Gentlemen, who, I am convinced, have always been, and still are, very sincere and true Friends to our present happy Establishment.
'By the Accession of these new Allies, as I may justly call them, the real but concealed Jacobites have succeeded even beyond their own Expectation; and therefore I am not at all ashamed to say I am in Fear of the Pretender: It is a Danger I shall never be ashamed to say I am afraid of; because it is a Danger we shall always be more or less exposed to; and, I believe, the less Number of regular Forces we keep up, the more we shall always be exposed to this Danger. Yet I would not have Gentlemen to conclude from hence, that I shall always be for keeping up the same Number of regular Forces we have at present: The Number of Jacobites will, I hope, be daily decreasing: Those who have been bred up in such Principles, and are therefore governed by the Prejudice of Education, will die away by Degrees, and some of them may perhaps, by the Force of their own Understanding, discover their Error, and change their Principles. This, Sir, we have the strongest Reason for hoping, and the more, because I have the Satisfaction to find, that few of the rising Generation are in the least tainted with such erroneous and dangerous Principles. In a short Time therefore, I believe, we may with Safety give the People a little Ease, with respect to the annual publick Expence, by reducing a Part of our Army; but to make any Reduction at present, would, in my Opinion, be the Height of Madness. That which is now called Discontent, would then appear to be Disaffection; for I should expect to hear of the Pretender's Standard's being soon after set up in several Parts of the Island, perhaps in every one of the three Kingdoms.
'This, I say, Sir, would be the Consequence I should expect from our making any Reduction, while there is such a numerous Party of Disaffected amongst us; and though our Neighbours seem all to be our good Friends at present, tho' no one of them seems to have any immediate Design of disturbing the Tranquility we now enjoy; yet it is well known, that there is no Method by which 'Friendship betwixt two Nations is kept up so surely, as by each being in a Condition to do herself Justice, if the other shall insult her. Besides, Sir, were our Forces reduced, who can say that we may not have some Disturbances at home; and then it is natural for rival Nations to foment the Divisions, and assist the Malecontents of one another. If there were no disaffected Party amongst us, or if that Party were inconsiderable, no foreign Power would dare to invade us; because such a Number of Transport Ships as is necessary for invading us with a great Army, could not be provided without our being advised of the Design; in which Case we could render their Design abortive by the Superiority of our Fleet; and to invade us suddenly with a small Number of Forces, could do us little or no Mischief, nor could it do our Enemies any Service. It would be like rouzing a Lion to Revenge by the Prick of a Needle. But whilst there is such a considerable disaffected Party amongst us, nothing can secure us effectually against small and sudden Invasions, but a sufficient Number of regular Forces ready to march at an Hour's Warning. Five or six thousand Men may be embarked in such a small Number of Ships, and so speedily, that it is impossible to guard against it by Means of our Fleet. Such a Number may be landed in some Part of the Island, before we can hear of their Embarkation: And if such a Number were landed, with the Pretender at their Head, there is no Question but that they would meet with many, especially the meaner Sort, to join them. In such a Case, we could not march our whole Army against those Invaders and their Assistants; because, if we should draw all our regular Forces away from the other Parts of the Kingdom, the Disaffected would rise in every County so left destitute of regular Troops; and the Rebels being thus in Possession of many Parts of our Sea Coasts, would be continually receiving Supplies, by single Ships, from those who had at first invaded us.
'Thus, Sir, a Civil War, at least, would be entailed upon us, and might continue for several Years. The Government might probably, by good Luck and good Management, get the better at last; but it is much better not to put it upon that Issue; for it would not be without Danger, and putting the Nation to a much greater Expence, than it could be put to by keeping up a small Number of additional Troops for many Years, I may say for many Ages. Against this Danger there is no possible Way of guarding absolutely, but by keeping up such a Number of regular Troops, as that we may spare to send six or seven thousand of them against any small and sudden Invasion that can be made upon us, and yet leave in every other Part of the Kingdom, especially the most disaffected, a Number sufficient for preventing the Designs of those who want only an Opportunity for rising in Arms against the Government: And for this Purpose, considering the Number of the Disaffected we have still the Misfortune to have amongst us, I must think 18,000 is the smallest Number we can in common Prudence keep up; for we must always keep 5 or 6,000 about our Capital, otherwise our Government may be in Danger of losing even that, and with that all its Treasure, and thereby our Fleet itself may be turned against us; I am sure 5 or 6,000 more is the smallest Number that can be thought necessary for being dispersed in the several Parts of the Kingdom, in order to keep the Disaffection in Obedience.
'This I say, Sir, is the smallest Number, we can in common Prudence propose to keep up, as long as there is such a considerable disaffected Party amongst us; but when that Party is intirely evanished, as I hope it will be in a few Years, we shall then have no Occasion for any more than are necessary in any Part of the Kingdom, for keeping the Dissaffected in Awe; we shall have no Occasion for any more than are necessary for guarding our Capital, and for assisting the Civil Magistrate in putting the Laws in Execution against Smugglers and other Criminals; for both which Purposes 12,000 may, I believe, be found fully sufficient.
'I know, Sir, it may be said, that as long as his Majesty possesses the Affections of the Generality of the People, which I hope he always will, we may trust to our Militia, for defending us against any small and sudden Invasion, and likewise for defending us against any Insurrection, as well as for enabling the Civil Magistrate to put the Laws in Execution against all Sorts of Criminals. For my Part, I can freely declare, that I wish, as much as any Man can do, that we could put so much Trust in our Militia, as to have no Occasion for regular Troops; and with regard to defending us against foreign Invasions, I believe we might put our Trust in our Militia, if our foreign Neighbours had nothing but Militia to bring against us; for our Men are naturally brave as any of their Neighbours; they always shewed themselves so, when neither of us had any thing else but Militia to trust to. But now, that our Neighbours have large Bodies of regular well-disciplined Troops, it would be Madness in us to put our whole Trust in our Militia; for by Experience, in all Countries, we find it is impossible to make Militia any thing near equal to regular Troops. We have an Instance, Sir, of this in the late War betwixt Poland and Muscovy. In Poland the Militia were formerly, and I believe are still, as good a Militia as any in the World. Whilst the Muscovites brought nothing but Militia against them, we find the Polish Troops were always much superier to the Muscovites, so much, that in former Times, we find a small Body of the former have put to Rout great Armies of the latter; but the Muscovites have now fallen into the Way of keeping up a great Army of regular well-disciplined Troops, and late Experience has shewn us how much inferior the Polish Militia is to the Muscovite regular Troops; for in the late War which happened upon the Election of this present King of Poland, the Polish Militia could never once make any tolerable Stand against those regular Troops, that were sent from Muscovy to support the present King of Poland's Election. In all the other Countries of Europe we find it is the same; and in this Country, I am convinced, we should find it to our Cost, if we had nothing but Militia to send against any Body of regular Troops, that might chance, by escaping our Fleet at Sea, to land in this Island; for which Reason, as long as our Neighbours keep up such large Bodies of regular Troops, I shall always be against trusting intirely to our Militia, for our Defence against foreign Invasions.
'Even as to defending us against Insurrections, and enabling the Civil Magistrate to execute the Laws against Criminals, I do not know, Sir, if it would be proper to trust to our Militia. During the late Rebellion we saw how unserviceable, how backward they were. I hope it will not be pretended that that Insurrection was general, or that it was favoured by any great Part of the People; and yet that small Number of Men, which were gathered together from one Corner of the Island only, would, I am afraid, have made themselves Masters of the Whole, if we had then had nothing but Militia to send against them. Then as to enabling the Civil Magistrate to execute the Laws against Criminals, I am sure there never was a Time when there was less Reason than there is at present, to say our Militia is sufficient for this Purpose. In most of our maritime Counties, I do not know but that the Militia would protect instead of suppressing the Smugglers; in some Counties the Militia would, I fear, destroy the Turnpikes, instead of assisting to apprehend those, who do in a riotous Manner destroy them; and in every County, I am convinced, the Militia would protect the illegal Retailers of spirituous Liquors, instead of protecting those who serve the Publick by informing against them.
'From these Considerations, Sir, I am convinced, a Standing Army is absolutely necessary, at least at present, for protecting us against foreign Invasions, and domestick Insurrections, and for enabling the civil Magistrate to execute those Laws, which have been thought highly necessary by all the Branches of our Legislature; and for these Ends I cannot think, that a less numerous Standing Army than we now have, could be sufficient; at least I cannot think so, as long as we have so formidable a disaffected Party amongst us. A Standing Army, or such an one as we have at present, may perhaps be an Evil; I shall even grant it is an Evil, because it must always be expensive to the People; but it is an Evil which we ought to submit to, for the Sake of avoiding a greater: And as I am of Opinion, and have, I think, clearly shewn, that a Standing Army, constituted as our present is, and not more numerous, cannot be in the least dangerous to our Constitution or Liberties; therefore I must think, we ought the more willingly to submit to it.'
An Army in Time of Peace thought by some Members consistent with Whig Principles. ; The Roman History
Some Members, who were for the Motion, then endeavoured to shew, that an Army in Time of Peace was not at all inconsistent with the Whig Principles; and that the present Disposition of the Nation absolutely required that such an Army should be kept up. That it could be looked upon as no Violation of the Constitution, since it was for the Good of the Whole. This was endeavoured to be proved by some Instances from the Roman History. Then Sir John Hynd Cotton spoke to the following Purpose.
Sir John Hynd Cotton.
'I do own it gives me a good deal of Surprise, to hear Gentlemen who act upon Revolution Principles talk so utterly inconsistent with what was the Language of the Whigs in former Times. Sir, I know not what Whigs the honourable Gentleman has been acquainted with, but I have had the Honour and Happiness to be intimate with many Gentlemen of that Denomination: I likewise, Sir, have read the Writings of many Authors who have espoused these Principles: I have sat in this House during some of the most material Debates that have happened betwixt them and the Tories; and, Sir, I can declare from my own Experience, that I never knew one who acted on true Whig Principles, vote for a Standing Army in Time of Peace. What the Principles of the Whigs in former Days were, Sir, I can only learn from Reading or Information; but, Sir, I have heard of Whigs who were against all unlimited Votes of Credit: I have heard of Whigs who looked upon open Corruption as the greatest Curse that could befal any Nation: I have heard of Whigs who esteemed the Liberty of the Press to be the most valuable Privilege of a free People, and triennial Parliaments the greatest Bulwark of their Liberties; and, Sir, I have heard of a Whig Administration who have resented Injuries done to the Trade of the Nation, and who have revenged Insults offered to the British Flag. These, Sir, are the Principles, if I am rightly informed, that once characterised the true Whigs. Let Gentlemen apply these Characters to their present Conduct, and then, laying their Hands on their Hearts, let them ask of themselves, If they are Whigs? The honourable Gentleman who spoke last, asked, with an Air of Triumph, by what Means a parliamentary Standing Army was established under King William: He is positive that it could only be by Means of the Whig Interest. No, Sir, it was not; it was by Means of the Court Interest, which was supported by Men, who were no longer Whigs than during the Time they were out of Post, and who, after they got into Power, knew no other Principles but those which advanced the Interest of the Crown, and secured their own Employments. To these Gentlemen it was owing, Sir, that the ridiculous Distinction, without any Difference, betwixt two Kinds of Standing Armies, was broached: They told us, that an Army kept up from Year to Year by Consent of the Parliament was a quite different Kind of an Army from one kept up without Consent of the Parliament. Really, Sir, for my own Part; I think that one Army may be as dangerous as the other, because the one has as much Power as the other; and though Power does not give Right, yet it may command it; for whoever has a Power to seize on my Right, he is, in some Measure, my Master. So that though there may be a Difference, Sir, as to the Manner of their being paid, raised, or disbanded, yet there is no Difference as to their Power, if ever they should take it into their Heads to prescribe, instead of receiving Laws.
'The same hon. Gentleman was pleased to mention the Behaviour of the Army under the late K. James, as an Instance how safe our Liberties are when they can only be destroyed by an Army. But give me leave to say, Sir, that it was not the arbitrary Measures of that Prince which so disgusted his Army, but the foolish and barefaced Means which he used to introduce a Religion they detested. The just Balance, Sir, betwixt the Prerogative of the Crown and the Privileges of the Subject, is what Soldiers never inquire into. The former may make a thousand Encroachments upon the latter, before any Soldier shall take notice of it: For, Sir, I believe no Soldier ever yet told a Prince who maintained and paid him, "Indeed, Sir, you are too powerful, and too great, and therefore I will serve you no longer." But Religion, Sir, is a Point every Man makes himself a Judge of; and it is safer for a Prince to make the highest Encroachment upon Liberty, than to make the least upon Religion. This, I am afraid, Sir, was the true Reason why the greatest Part of King James's Army joined King William at the Revolution. Yet, Sir, as an excellent Author of those Days observes, "Though the late King James had the Nobility, Gentry, Bishops, People, and his own Army, against him, and we had a very wise and courageous Prince, nearly related to our Crown, for our Protector, yet we account this Revolution next to a Miracle." And I hope, Sir, Things will never come to that Pass with us, when nothing but a Miracle can deliver us.
'The honourable Gentleman laid down a Maxim, the Truth of which I am persuaded no Gentleman in this House will dispute, That the Safety of the People was the first Law. He thence seemed to conclude, that all the subordinate Laws of the Constitution must give way wherever the Safety of the People is concerned. But in my Opinion, Sir, the Safety of a People is best consulted by a steady Adherence to that Constitution, under which they become great and powerful. No Error in Government, Sir, is so dangerous, or can in the Event prove so fatal, as a Deviation from the Constitution: Nor can the Safety of the People be consulted when that is infringed. When the Romans had recourse to a Dictator, or the Dutch to a Stadtholder, they did nothing that was inconsistent with their Constitution; for both these People formerly lived under monarchical Government, and when that Government was abolished, they never precluded themselves from submitting to a temporary Exercise of a Species of that Government, whenever their common Safety, or the Exigencies of their State, rendered it indispensably necessary. But, Sir, the Roman History affords us many Instances of their Senate's unanimously rejecting the most advantageous Offers, even when their State was at the Brink of Ruin, because they could not be accepted without violating their Constitution. That wise People was fully sensible, that under whatever Disadvantages they might lie in the mean Time, they would be fully repaired by a rigid Adherence to those Principles that form'd the Basis of their Government, and which, by making them virtuous, had made them powerful. I agree with the honourable Gentleman, that the Subversion of their Liberties was owing to the Degeneracy of their Morals: But, Sir, the first Effects of that Degeneracy broke out in the open Attempts which their Governors made to alter their Constitution; and one Alteration brought on another, till the Whole was dissolved. So that, tho' the Safety of the People is the first Law, yet, that Safety never can be promoted, if the Measures pursued for promoting it are in the least inconsistent with the Constitution of the Country.
'I have heard it said, Sir, that the Liberties of this Nation can never be destroy'd by so inconsiderable a Number of Forces as 18,000. But, Sir, I must beg Leave to be of a different Opinion. We have a late Instance, when in this Metropolis the Populace was over-aw'd by less than the sixth Part of that Number, so as quietly to submit to a Law of as unpopular a Nature as ever pass'd in this House; I mean the Law relating to spirituous Liquors. Now, Sir, tho' I allow that this was a good Law, and that the Government was in the Right to enforce the Execution of it; yet an arbitrary. Law might have been forced upon the People with as much Ease, if back'd with the same Number of Forces. And, Sir, if so small a Number were sufficient to over-awe the People at so disagreeable a Juncture as that was, what may not the whole Body of our Army be able to effect, when united under the Direction of a General, either devoted to the Will of a Court, or following the Dictates of his own Ambition? Besides, Sir, tho' we should suppose, what is very improbable, that 18,000 Men are not sufficient to give Laws to the Rest of the Nation, yet the Court can command a considerable Reinforcement out of Ireland. That Kingdom, Sir, always maintains 12,000 Men, tho' 4000 are sufficient for all the Purposes they are kept up for there. Now, Sir, the supernumerary Body of 8000 can, upon any Pinch, be brought over hither, and added to the 18,000 now on Foot. Thus, Sir, the Court can at any Time form a Body of 26,000 Men, while a total Disuse of military Exercise has rendered our People utterly uncapable to make the least Opposition in Case these 26,000 Men were employed by the Court to wicked Purposes. This, Sir, must present but a very melencholy Prospect to every Lover of his Country, were he not persuaded of his Majesty's Regard for the Laws, and his Tenderness for the Rights of his Subjects. I wish, Sir, his Ministers were as tender how they load the Nation with any unnecessary Expence. I say this, Sir, because I hear there is a Design of adding a Regiment, raised since our last Sessions, to the Forces in our American Settlements, which Regiment will cost the Nation at least fifteen thousand Pounds, including the Expence of their Artillery, and other incidental Charges. Sir, I am not at all against our sending some additional Troops to that Country, and especially to Georgia; nay, considering how far the Honour, if not the Interest of our Nation, is concerned in supporting that Settlement, I think we have been too dilatory in sending some Reinforcement thither. But, Sir, I am of Opinion, there was no Occasion to have raised a Regiment for that Purpose, when we have so many old ones that would have served the Purpose as well. Had one of the Regiments on the British Establishment been sent thither; nay, had half a Dozen of them, for I am sure we can spare them, been sent thither, we must have reaped two Advantages; first, we should have been eased of so much Expence, because we can maintain them cheaper there than we can here: In the second Place, there they can answer the Ends of the Nation, here they can answer only those of the Ministry. But, Sir, in what I have said on this Head, I am far from reflecting on any Measure that might have been taken by the Advice of the honourable Gentleman whom we may justly call the Father of that Colony. I am so much persuaded of his Integrity and Ability, that I think we ought to be as willing to support him, as he has been generous in-serving us. But I dare say the honourable Gentleman himself is sensible, that the less the Expence is which his Endeavours for the publick Good shall cost his Country, the greater will be his own Honour.
'Having thus given my Reasons, Sir, why I think the proposed Reduction extremely proper at this Time, and why I think it extremely improper for us to load the Nation with any additional Expence, I shall conclude with giving my Vote for the Motion.'
John Selwyn, Esq;
To the latter Part of this Speech it was answered by John Selwyn, Esq; and others; 'That the Money laid out upon Georgia was the best employed of any Money that ever the Government laid out; because, in a short Time, that Colony would be able to produce as much raw Silk as will save the Nation upwards of three hundred thousand Pounds, which is now yearly sent out of Britain to Italy and other Countries, for that Commodity: That all the Saving wou'd be but two hundred sixteen thousand Pounds, which was but inconsiderable when compar'd to the Benefit of keeping the Forces up.'
'I own that till now I have not approved our laying out so much Money as we have done on the Settlement of Georgia, because I was of Opinion, that if the Hands we have sent thither had been duly employed in Agriculture and Manufactures here, they might have been more useful to their Native Country. But the honourable Gentleman who spoke last has entirely removed my Scruples; for if what he says be Truth, which I am far from disputing, it is like to prove the most beneficial Colony that ever was sent from Britain, both because it will save a great deal of Money to the Nation, and as it will produce a large Revenue to the Crown. For this Reason, Sir, I think that the Money required for maintaining that Settlement, and paying the Forces sent thither, may be raised without our laying any additional Burthen on the People of Britain. The Method I propose, Sir, for this End, is, that as the Fund is so very good, and the Security upon it so unquestionable, the Government should borrow as much Money upon it as may defray all the necessary Expences attending the Settlement, that now fall upon the Subjects of Britain. This, Sir, I take to be a very fair and equitable Proposal, and I am persuaded that the Wisdom and Frugality of the Gentlemen who have the Honour to be in the Administration will induce them to consider of it.
'As to the other Part of my worthy Friend's Speech, I own I cannot so easily digest it. The Reduction that is proposed, said he, will save only two hundred sixteen thousand Pounds the to Nation. Sir, two hundred sixteen thousand Pounds is Money; and had we, for twenty Years past, saved that same Sum by the like Reduction, upwards of six Millions of the National Debt had been paid off, and a great many Inconveniencies kept from the Subjects. Besides, had this Reduction taken Place twenty Years ago, and continued ever since, I am convinced, Sir, that the only Pretence for a Standing Army in this Nation, I mean what is advanced from the Discontent of the People, had been entirely taken away, in that two of the principal Causes of the Discontent had been removed, the Grievance from the Severity of our Taxes, and the Aversion of the Nation to so numerous a Standing Army in Time of Peace: So that it is more than probable, that by this Time we should have had no Occasion at all for any Standing Forces. However, Sir, better late than never. If we begin now to reduce them, the Nation may twenty Years hence feel the Benefit of a total Reduction. Whereas, if we keep them on Foot from Year to Year, or instead of reducing, increase them, the Nation twenty Years hence may be saddled with 18,000 more, and publick Discontent increasing with the publick Debt, may run so high, as to render it imprudent for the Government, tho' it were willing, ever to make any Reduction. Wherefore, Sir, I am for beginning in Time, and then for making amends, as far as we can, for any past Oversights, by agreeing to the proposed Reduction.'
Sir William Younge (fn. 1)spoke next in Substance as follows:
Sir William Younge.
'Ever since I had the Honour to sit in this House, we have had every Session a regular Return of a Debate on this Subject. Sometimes I have heard very specious Arguments for a Reduction urged by the Gentlemen in the Opposition; but I always saw before next Sessions too good Proofs that we acted most wisely when we agreed to the keeping up the greatest Number of Troops; nor do I know any Part of his late Majesty's Conduct so justly liable to Censure, as the Reduction of his Forces, to which he was induced by a sincere, but mistaken Tenderness for his People; nor did I ever know a Reduction which the Nation in a little Time had not Reason to repent of. I own, Sir, that in some Years the Reasons for keeping them up were stronger than in others, but I cannot remember a Year when the Reasons for keeping them up were so strong as they are at present. The Insolence of the People in all Parts of the Kingdom is risen to a Height that makes it unsafe for the Civil Magistrate to do his Duty without the Assistance of the military Power. In the Country where I was during some Part of our late Recess, the Miners, the Labourers, and other Manufacturers, assembled in a riotous and tumultuous Manner, to the Number of near five thousand, upon no other Pretence but the Exportation of some Grain; which Exportation really did a Service to the Country, and never could hurt them. They proceeded to the most violent Outrages, which rendered it impossible for the civil Magistrate to quell them; for they were so favoured by the Country in general, that it was out of his Power to raise a Posse strong enough for that Purpose. Now, Sir, I would gladly know of any Gentleman what the Consequence of this Tumult must have been, had the Government not been able to have commanded a Body of regular Force strong enough to have suppress'd them. The gentle Arts of Persuasion would never have succeeded, for they were too mad to listen to any: The Sense of their Duty could never have reclaimed them, for they seemed to make a Merit of being quite void of that. A regular Body of Forces, therefore, acting by the Direction of the Civil Magistrate, was the only proper Means of reducing them. In this Metropolis, Sir, not a Month ago, a vigilant and an active Magistrate was insulted in his own House for doing his Duty, by a tumultuous Mob of the same Kind, who threatened to pull his House in Pieces about his Ears, and, as I am informed, actually attempted, and probably would have effected it, had it not been for a Detachment of the regular Troops who were sent to protect him. These Tumults, Sir, could be owing to no Oppression, nor to any just Ground of Offence that had been given them by that Magistrate. But the Truth is, that the more active, the more honest, and the more vigilant a Magistrate is, the more he is insulted, hated, and abused by the common People. These Mobs, Sir, it is true, seldom have any other View than to gratify their immediate Resentment. But who knows, Sir, but that if they come to any Height, those who have more distant and more dangerous Views, may herd with them, and make them the Tools of their Ambition or Revenge? This, Sir, would very probably be the Case, were it not for our regular Forces; and if this were the Case, we must soon see a Rebellion formed, and the Nation become a Scene of Blood and Confusion. Let any Gentleman who loves his Country reflect upon the Horrors which such an Idea presents, and let him, if he can, vote for a Reduction, which by weakening the Hands of the Government may leave a Possibility of any such Event. An Exemption from the Miseries of a Civil War is cheaply purchased by the heaviest Taxes. The People of Britain at present pay no heavier Taxes, than the Extension of their Commerce, and the Benefits they enjoy from the Government, (which leaves them more Liberty than any People under the Sun enjoy) enable them to support without Difficulty; and, though their Taxes were still heavier, a little more Industry and Frugality in the meaner Sort of our People would easily supply them: But, Sir, the Wounds of a civil War may bleed for many Ages; by ruining our Trade it must render us despicable to our Neighbours, and probably we must become subject either to a foreign or a domestick Tyranny. I believe no Gentleman, whether he is a Placeman or not, would forgive himself, if he did not concur in every Measure that could avert such an Event. Sir, if such Measures are pursued, they are right Measures, whether they are pursued by Place-Men or others: And I hope all Place-Men will be so true to one another, as to unite in giving their Negative to the Reduction on this Occasion."
Sir John Barnard.
'It has always been my Opinion, that the readiest Way to bring on the Miseries which the honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, has so pathetically described, is to maintain a numerous Standing Army in Time of Peace; and that the best, if not the only Method of preventing them, is, either considerably to reduce, or intirely to disband it. So that, Sir, the Gentleman has very artfully forestalled the Debate, by employing in favour of a Standing Army, one of the strongest Arguments against it. I am perfectly at a Loss to know why the Gentlemen who are against the Reduction, have let so much of our Time be spent, before they began the Debate on their Side; for I am sure they have not yet advanced a Shadow of an Argument in favour of the Resolution. Therefore, Sir, I either expect to hear some Reasons why we should agree to this Resolution, from the Gentlemen who shall speak in the succeeding Part of the Debate, or I must be obliged to think that a Standing Army is intended to be made a Part of our Constitution, and that our resolving ourselves into a Committee, to consider of the proper Number to be kept up, is mere Form. Nay, Sir, it is not impossible, but that, some Years hence, we may see a Bill brought into this House for that End. This, Sir, will save Gentlemen a great deal of Trouble, in eluding once a Year a Set of ill natured perplexing Objections, raised by Gentlemen stubbornly and perversely attached to the Good of their Country, and the Preservation of the Constitution. But, Sir, if such a Step should be taken, Gentlemen both of Reputation and Estate will not be wanting to oppose such a Subversion of our Liberties, with their Interest, with their Fortunes, and, if their Country requires it, with their Swords. Since the Beginning of this Debate, we have had a very broad Intimation of a Design that leans very much that Way. An honourable Gentleman under the Gallery told us, If you continue the Liberty of the Press, you ought to continue your Army. Sir, I look upon the Liberty of the Press to be the most valuable Part of the Liberty of the Subject; I look upon the Army, as what may one Day be the Destruction of both; and to give no better Reason for supporting a Standing Army, but that it may destroy the Liberty of the Press, is to say, in other Words, That a Resolution is now forming to put an End to the Liberties of Great Britain.
'The honourable Gentleman who spoke last, told us, that we were under a Necessity of keeping up our Army, that it may enforce the Laws, which the Weakness of our Civil Magistrates cannot do. Sir, I know not what Authority the honourable Gentleman has, for throwing out such a Reflection upon the Civil Magistrates in general. I have the Honour to be a Civil Magistrate, Sir, in the greatest City in Britain, perhaps in Europe; and I dare answer for myself, and for those Gentlemen whom I have had the Happiness to be associated with in the Civil Magistracy, that we have no Occasion for any Assistance of the military Force for putting the Laws in Execution. And as I have Opportunities of knowing somewhat of the Country of England in general, I can venture to say, that a Constable at the Head of his Posse, by a Warrant from a Justice of the Peace who is beloved, can do more than a Colonel at the Head of his Regiment. I say, Sir, a Justice of the Peace who is beloved; for I am far from thinking that all of them are beloved; though I believe they generally are so, when it is known they are not influenced by any Guidance from within these Walls. Sir, it is the Duty, as well as the Interest of every Civil Magistrate, to endeavour to render himself beloved and popular in those Places where he acts; and if there are any who are more hated, and consequently less obeyed by the People, it must be owing to their own ill Conduct. Nay, Sir, I believe I could instance many Justices of the Peace, who act as such, without having a Qualification. In what I have said, Sir, I am far from intending that it should be understood, as if I reflected on any particular Gentleman, who has the Honour to serve his Majesty in the Commission of Peace in Westminster. I am willing to believe the best of these Gentlemen, and that they are far from making a Traffick of their Duty, or taking their Directions from any Man in Power. But, Sir, if there are any such, though they may indeed want the Assistance of the military Power, I think it is very unsafe for us to keep up Forces that may be employed to very bad Purposes by such Magistrates.'
Wm. Pulteney, Esq;
'The Arguments that have been advanced against the present Motion are of so extraordinary a Nature, and those that have been offered in favour of the Resolution, are so weak, that I have a better Opinion of the Judgments of the honourable Gentlemen who have advanced them, than to believe they themselves think they could be of any Weight, but in an Assembly where their own Party is sure of a Majority. Some Gentlemen seem to be under terrible Apprehensions from the Press, some from the People, and some seem to fear nothing but for themselves. One honourable Gentleman, in particular, calls out to his Brethren in Place, and solemnly conjures them to be true to one another. O all ye Placemen be true to one another! Indeed, Sir, the honourable Gentleman may rest very well satisfied that they will; for I cannot say that I ever knew them fail, especially when they were to gain any thing by it. I wish, Sir, that other Gentlemen were as well united, that Country Gentlemen would be true to one another; for if they were, though perhaps we could not carry this Question, yet we might hope at least not to lose it by, I had almost said, so scandalous a Majority, as it is but too probable that we shall.
'It is the Misfortune, Sir, of this Nation, under our present Situation, that it is generally thought to be in the Power of one Man to determine the Fate of every Question of Importance brought before this Assembly. This makes many Gentlemen, who wish well to their Country, take every Opportunity of staying at home, when they ought to give their Attendance in this House. Each reasons in this Manner: "My single Voice is of little or no Consequence, why then should I be at the Pains and Expence to attend the Parliament, since it can be of no Use to my Country?" But this is a false and a pernicious Inference. This, Sir, gives a tacit Countenance to oppressive Measures, and deprives a Man of the Satisfaction of having done at least his Duty for the Service of his Country. Besides, Sir, Gentlemen ought to reflect, that if those who act for the Interest of their Country were united, and gave their Attendance in this House, they might still indeed continue the Minority; but, Sir, such a Minority as they would then form, never yet failed of soon becoming the Majority. I have thought myself obliged to say thus much, because I see many Gentlemen absent on this Occasion, who, I know, wish well to their Country, and who I know would be absent on no other Account, but for the Reason I have now suggested.
'I have heard, Sir, during the Course of this Debate, great Complaints of the Depravity of the common People; and I am sensible the Complaints are not ill-founded. But, Sir, I think the Method that is proposed to reform them, instsad of suppressing, will but propagate the Evil. It is as impracticable, Sir, to dragoon People into Morality, as into Religion; nor can a Standing Army make a free People quiet Subjects, any other Way than by making them humble Slaves. It has always, Sir, been the distinguishing Glory of this Constitution, that our Kings reigned over Men, and not over Slaves: And that gave them the Power of doing as much Good as they pleased; though it tied up their Hands from doing any Hurt. But, Sir, our new System of Politicks has a quite different Tendency; it tends to make Slaves of Subjects, to give the King an Opportunity of doing Harm, but deprives him of the Power of doing Good. For, Sir, a Man who lies at the Mercy of another, as to his Liberty and Property, is, in effect, a Slave, though he who is his Superior should not exercise his Power tyrannically. And a Prince, Sir, who, in order to maintain his Authority, is obliged to burden his Subjects with oppressive Taxes, while they already groan under a Load of Debts, has it in his Power to oppress his Subjects, but has it not in his Power to relieve them; because no Act of Grace, which he can exert, can be a Balance for the Unpopularity that must attend him. So that, Sir, it is surprising that Ministers themselves are not more cautious how they give Occasion for any unnecessary Taxes upon the People, or how they consent to the keeping up a Body of Forces, which so evidently tends to weaken both their Master's and their own real Interests. But, say Gentlemen, the Depravity is so great and so general, that no Remedy besides that of a superior Force can be applied. Sir, a Physician, who would cure a Disease, applies himself first to find out its Causes; and if the Causes can be found out and taken away, the Effect ceases of course.
'As to what the Gentlemen who are for continuing the present Number of our Forces have so much insisted on, I mean the Spirit of Opposition to the Civil Magistracy on some Occasions, it has, I am afraid, been too much owing to the Conduct of the Magistrates; and their Opposition to some late Laws is to be imputed, I believe, to the Nature of the Laws themselves. It is impossible, Sir, for a Legislature to inforce immediate Obedience to an unusual Law, without very great Reluctance from the People, before they are convinced that this Law is really for their Good. And, Sir, give me leave to say, that it will take a good deal of Art to perswade the People of the Expediency of some Laws lately passed. Nay, Sir, I should not myself be easily convinced, that some late Laws might not have produced all the Good for which they were intended, and yet have appeared in a Shape more agreeable to the Body of our People. Are Gentlemen to suppose that a People will submit to Laws which they look upon oppressive and inconsistent? In this Part of the Country, Sir, they are obliged to submit to Laws; for Instance, the late Act against Spirituous Liquors, which pretends to pluck up an old but beloved Disease by the Roots, while the Manner of detecting Delinquents against this Law gives Rise to numberless Villanies amongst the menner Sort: For it is, Sir, in the Power of any Rogue, as the Law now stands, if he can digest Perjury, to ruin an honest Man and his whole Family. Can therefore Gentlemen be surprised that a Law, so disagreeable in its own Nature, to the People, the meaner Sort, at least, for I have never heard any body else charged with opposing it, should meet with Opposition from them' Yet, Sir, this is a Law of which we were so fond, that we actually bought it. Yes, Sir! we bought it of the Government at the Rate of 70,000 Pounds and upwards.
'In another Part of the Country, Sir, in Scotland, the Clergy is obliged, by a late (fn. 2)Act for that Purpose, to read more than once from their Pulpits a Proclamation, or a Declaration, I do not know how you call it. Why, Sir, I am told the People in that Country laugh at this Act; and if the Government were strictly to enforce it, they would hazard another Rebellion. So that, Sir, it is our Duty, before we pass any Act that affects the Body of a People, always to consider whether the Advantages accruing from such an Act are sufficient to counterbalance the Unpopularity of our passing that Act, and the Odium and Expences which the Government must incur by putting it in Execution. When I say this, Sir, I hope no Gentleman will infer that I would court Popularity at the Expence of any Measure that is for the Good of the People. But I know, that some Governments have found the Secret of reconciling the People's real Interests to their Inclinations, and believe that in all good Governments the most beneficial Laws are generally the most popular.
'But, besides Blunders which we may have committed in a more publick Capacity, I am afraid, Sir, that in other Respects we do not a little contribute to spread this Spirit of Discontent. When a People, Sir, sees their Superiors abandon the Principles that make them honest Men, they presume, not unreasonably, that they have lost every Quality that forms an honest Representative. When they see Luxury and Extravagance supported upon the Emoluments of publick Posts, the meanest Subject in the Nation, if he knows any Thing, knows that he helps to pay for these Luxuries, and that they are maintained on the Spoils of his Country. When Sir, the People see Gentlemen wasting their private Estates in idle Pursuits, and unprofitable Vices; they know that these Gentlemen have no other Way to repair the shattered Remains of their Fortunes, but by preying upon the Publick. When they see Corruption and Venality openly avowed, even tho' some of them taste it, they know, or at least they suspect, that an Administration must be weak when it requires such Supports.
'Give me Leave to borrow an Expression, and to say, that it is ours to mend the Hearts of the People. It is our Duty, Sir, by each of us living within the Bounds of our own private Fortunes, to preserve our Independency upon any Man or any Minister whatever; and thus shall we be enabled to preserve the Independency of the Legislature. Then shall we see the publick Debts decrease, the Dissatisfaction of the People subside, and the Distinctions of Parties abolished. We shall then have no Need of a Standing Army; because then, Sir, there will be no Occasion to rule by a Party; for that Party amongst us, which either by its Principles or Practices opposes these good Ends, becomes a Faction, let its Majority be ever so great. I have heard, Sir, many invidious Insinuations and Reflections thrown out against a certain Opposition that I could name, and I hear a great Talk without Doors about (fn. 3)a Reconciliation. Sir, I know not any Reconciliations that I could wish except one: Others I never desire to see, unless they are founded on the Liberties- of the People; and, Sir, I think an Opposition upon virtuous Principles the only Security that our Country can hope for, and I here openly profess my Determination always to join in such an Opposition.
'Those Gentlemen who are for our agreeing to this Resolution, in my Opinion, make but a very indifferent Compliment to his Majesty, who has recommended Unanimity and Dispatch to us so strongly from the Thone; yet Sir, in the very Beginning of our Session, we have here a Bone of Contention thrown amongst us. We are, it seems not only to agree to the keeping up the same Number of Forces which we had last Year, but we are to add to the Charges that attend them, the Expence of raising a new Regiment to be sent to our Plantations. Sir, I cannot conceive how Gentlemen should suppose that if such an unreasonable Resolution is brought in, we can act in the Manner his Majesty has so wisely recommended. I say, Sir, so wisely recommended; because, on the Unanimity of this Parliament depends the Judgment which Foreigners will form of our Strength and Resolution in this important Crisis of our Trade. If they shall find Unanimity in our Resentment at home, they will expect the same Unanimity in our Resentment abroad, if it shall be found that any of our Neighbours have insulted our Flag, or plundered our Merchants; it will let them see that both the Nation and the Parliament are resolv'd to behave with such Duty and Zeal for their Country, as to stand in no Need of being over-awed by a Standing Army. And Foreigners will then despair of finding a Party who shall abet them here.
Sir Robert Walpole.
'Whatever groundless Insinuations some Gentlemen may throw out about any Attempts that have been or are to be made upon the Liberty of Speech; one Gentleman, since the Opening of this Debate, has told us, That be could wish that Things were to run into Confusion; because out of Confusion may arise Order. A Wish so shocking to the Ears of a dutiful Subject, and so contrary to the Dignity of this Assembly, that I hope never to hear the like repeated within these Walls. It was saying, in other Terms, that he wished to see the Succession of the present Royal Family set aside, and the Nation involved in the dismal Consequences of civil War, rather than that we should agree to a Measure which the Wisdom of all Parliaments, since the late Revolution, has thought necessary for the Preservation of our Liberty. I cannot, indeed, understand how Gentlemen, during the Course of this Debate, can reason as if this Resolution was such as had never been agreed to by any Parliament, and that it was a direct Infringement of our Constitution. This is calling in Question the Honour and the Integrity not only of all the Parliaments, but of every Gentleman who has voted for this Measure in these Parliaments, for 40 Years past. And I am sure my good Friend who spoke last, has very good Reasons, known to himself and me, for supporting their Authority.
'My honourable Eriend was pleased to inveigh very severely against the Luxury and Vice that reigns but too generally amongst us. I know not from what this Luxury and Vice proceed; but proceed from what it will, I am sure it does proceed from any Example set by the Royal Family; for I am persuaded that every Gentleman who hears me, is sensible that no Nation was ever blest with a Royal Family, that has given such eminent Instances of Frugality and Temperance, as the Family that is now upon our Throne. If a People, Sir, grown wanton with Liberty and Riches shall degenerate into Luxury, is a Prince or his Ministers to he blamed for that? Or if the People is tainted with Discontent and Dissatisfaction, are we to endeavour to cure it by giving up the only Means of restraining them? Yet this, Sir, is the the very Thing for which some Gentlemen have argued so strenously since the Opening of this Debate. It has been allowed on all Hands, that had it not been for our Standing Forces, the Nation must have e'er this Time run into Confusion from that Spirit of Dissatisfaction, that has broke loose among the People. But, say some Gentlemen, that Spirit is occasioned from the Oppression of the Government. But they have not been pleased to give us any Instance of such Oppression; they have given us no Instance of an Invasion upon the Liberty and Property of any Subject: They have not given us one Instance of any Incroachment of the Military upon the Civil Power, or of one Attack that has been made by the Administration to subvert the Freedom of Parliament. There is nothing more common, Sir, than to raise a Clamour upon the Topicks of Bribery, Corruption, and Venality, and nothing more easy than to make the People believe that when an Administration continues long in the same Hands, it can only be by these Means. But this is a Misfortune that has attended the best Administrations in all Ages and in all Countries. The very Success that a Minister meets with, is improved by his Enemies to his Prejudice. If a Majority in this House concur with his Measures, it must be the Effect of Corruption. If he has the Favour of the Prince, he owes it to Flattery and misrepresenting the State of the Nation. Does the Kingdom under his Administration enjoy a profound Peace, an extended Commerce? This is attributed to the Minister's Sacrificing some thing still more valuable than these Advantages, in order to procure them. So that, Sir, the very Well-being of a State gives a Handle to Clamour against the Minister; whereas, in reality, his Success in the Parliament may be owing to the Justice of his Measures; the Favour he is in with his Prince, to his Integrity; and the Increase of the National Wealth and Power, to his Vigilance and the Firmness of his Resolutions. Sir, I shall make no particular Application of what I have said here; only one Thing I will be bold to affirm, that had the Clamours that have been raised in Great Britain these 18 Years past against the Administration been well founded, we must before this Time have been the most miserable, the most beggarly, and the most abject People under the Sun. But, Sir, is there no other Vehicle by which Luxury may be introduced, besides that of Ministerial Corruption? Give me leave to say, Sir, there is; and that the Riches which a Nation may acquire by Trade, under a good Administration, is the principal and indeed the natural Source from whence the Luxury which the honourable Gentleman inveighs against, proceeds. These Riches, Sir, induce the Trading Part of the Nation, to abandon the frugal Maxims of their Ancestors: The Landed Interest, Sir, emulates the Trading, and their Wealth encreasing in Proportion as Trade flourishes, they improve likewise in all the Luxuries of Life. These Luxuries, Sir, after some Time, create Wants; Wants produce Necessities; Necessities, Dissatisfaction; and when they are reduc'd in their Circumstances by their own Extravagancies, they exclaim against the Heaviness of Taxes, the Decay of Trade, and the Corruption of Ministers. A Minister is answerable, Sir, in some measure, for the Wealth of a Nation; but he is not answerable for the Abuse of that Wealth. And when Gentlemen exclaim against the luxurious Living of a nation, they are mistaken if they think that thereby they hurt the Reputatation of a Minister in the Eyes of considerate Men. No, Sir, they bestow a tacit Encomium upon the Minister; for under a bad Administration, especially if it is a long one, it is impossible for the Nation to supply these Luxuries, without the Nation's feeling in a very few Years the whole Ballance of Trade with their Neighbours turning against it: And I dare say, that no Gentleman in this House can affirm that this is our Case at present. Thus much, Sir, I have thought fit to say, not in Answer, but by way of Supplement to what the hon. Gentleman observed with Regard to the general Depravity of Morals so visible throughout the Kingdom.
'But were I to be asked, Sir, what Remedy is then to be applied to this general Depravity, my Answer would be, the Answer of every Gentleman who judges coolly and impartially; that nothing is more likely to gain this End, than a due Submission to that Government, which enacts no Laws but by your own Consent, and raises no Taxes but what your own Safety requires. This, could we effect it, Sir, (to use the same Expression with the hon. Gentleman) would be mending the Hearts of the People, and without this, all the Methods that either the King or the Paliament can fall upon for that Purpose must be unsuccessful. I with, Sir, that all the Gentlemen in this House could say, with a clear Conscience, that they had no other View than this, in all their Pursuits of Popularity and Pretensions to Patriotism: And I wish, Sir, that the Actions of Gentlemen would prove to the World, that their sole Aim is not the Destruction of the Minister, but the Good of their Country.
'As to what the honourable Gentleman talk'd about the just Grounds of Discontent among the People; I am sorry to hear any Gentleman in this House infinuate, that the Acts and Laws past by this House, can give the People any just Ground of Discontent. It proceeds from another Quarter, Sir; for there is nothing more certain than that, if our People are once rendered discontented with the Government, they soon become disaffected with the Establishment: And, Sir, tho' I admit that a Man of Sense may be attached to our present Establishment, and yet dissatisfied with some Steps of the Administration, yet it is otherwise with the Common People: With them Discontent, Disloyalty, and Rebellion follow so close on one another, that they are one and the same Thing. Had certain Gentlemen, Sir, who have lately joined in some Measures against the Government, sufficiently reflected on this Truth, I am persuaded such is their Attachment to his Majesty's Person and Family, that they would not have assisted so much as they have done in promoting the Dissatisfaction that prevails among the Common People. For, Sir, the Faction which is in the Interest of the Person who disputes his Majesty's Title to the Crown, always presumes, that whoever is against the Administration, is against the Establishment likewise; and nothing has more contributed to keep up the Spirit of that Party, than their industriously propagating that Doctrine. This, Sir, is the true Reason that they look upon the Lenity of that Government as the Effect of its Weakness, and that they attribute the Indulgence they meet with to our Fears. This, Sir, is the true Reason why they endeavour to improve to their Advantage every Accident that happens in the Nation, tho' perhaps it is very distant from their Purpose, and fell out contrary to their Hopes. This, Sir, was the Reason why, on the late melancholy Event that (fn. 4)afflicted the Nation, their Hopes revived, their Cabals were set on Foot, and every Tool of their Party was employed in their Consultations how to bring about their favourite Point. There are many in our Galleries now, Sir, who know what I have said to be true, and if they had the Privilege of speaking here, could, if they pleased, convince us how improper the proposed Reduction is, while such a Spirit subsists in the Kingdom.
'Sir, I have known a Time when Gentlemen acted on true Whig Principles; and at that Time, Sir, they seemed to be of Opinion, that the best, if not the only Way to secure us from Popery, and arbitrary Power, was by securing the present Establishment of the Crown in his Majesty's Person and Family. They were then of Opinion, Sir, this was best done by our keeping up a regular Body of Forces, and I should be glad to know if the same Reasons do not subsist now as did then, or if they who are the Enemies of our present Establishment have been weakened by the Opposition of these Gentlemen to the Administration.'
Wm. Pulteney, Esq;
'I think a Man is an honest Man, who votes according to what his Conscience tells him the present Situation of Things requires; and an honest Man, Sir, if he sees the Circumstances which induced him to vote in Favour of a Resolution last Year altered, or if he finds that he himself has been mistaken in the Apprehension of these Circum stances: I say, Sir, an honest Man will, in either of these Cases, vote this Session directly contrary to what he voted before. If ever I voted for a Standing Army, Sir, in Time of Peace, it was when my Conscience told me that the Preservation of our Liberties required it. But, Sir, though at that Time, perhaps, I was convinced that our keeping up a Standing Army for one Year was necessary; it does not follow that I act inconsistently, if I don't vote for a Perpetuity of that Army. Therefore, though a Gentleman has voted for every Question, for every Job of the Ministry; though his whole Life has been but one continued Vote on their Side; yet he ought neither to be ashamed nor afraid to oppose them, as soon as his own Judgement or the Situation of Things is alterad. This is acting upon no other Principles, Sir, but those of an honest Man, and a Lover of his Country; and, as the Distinction between Whigs and Tories is now in effect abollished, I hope soon to see our People know no other Denominations of Party amongst us besides those of Court and Country. The honourable Gentleman talks of the Establishment of the Government, and of the Administration; but, Sir, I know of no Establishment, I know of no Government, I know of no Administration that ought to be kept up, but for the Preservation of the Liberties of the People: For it is not Twopence Matter to me, whether the Prince's Name under whom I am to be enslaved, is Thomas, James, or Richard; I am sure I shall never be enslaved under a George.
'And here give me leave to say, Sir, that the Establishment of the Crown in his Majesty's Person and Family can only be secured by our securing the Rights of the People. This, Sir, is the Charter by which his Majesty holds his Crown; and whoever separates the Interests of the People from those of the Establishment, must be either ignorant of our Constitution, or a Traitor equally to his Prince and his Country. For this Reason, Sir, to me it is evident, that if the Pretender had an Agent in his Majesty's Councils, or in this House, that Agent would employ all the Force of Tongue and Lungs, he would even out-vote a Minister, and out-speech a Place-Man in his Zeal for this Resolution; nor could a more effectual Way, Sir, to promote that Person's Interest be thought of, than our agreeing to bridle the Kingdom with 18,000 Men: Because it is, in effect, telling all the Powers in Europe, that so weak is the Administration of Britain, and so much are they hated by the People, that they dare not venture to make one Step in the Government without their Bully-back an Army. While your Army continues, Sir, Discontent must increase, and the more Discontent increases, the fairer is the Pretender's Chance for succeeding; whereas, if the People were reconciled to the Government, he could not have the most distant Prospect of Success: For I dare say, very few in Britain at present wish him well on his own Account; and the few deluded Persons who do incline to his Party, do it only because they are so weak as to imagine, that the one Evil would be less than the other. Wherefore, Sir, as I wish the Crown of Britain may continue for-ever in his Majesty's Person and Family, as I hope never to see the Pretensions of any other Person succeed, and as I think the Reputation of the Kingdom is interested in the Fate of this Question, I must agree to the proposed Reduction.'
Sir Wm. Windham.
'I think it strange, that this mighty Secret of our Fears about the Pretender, has never been discovered during the whole Course of this Debate, till the honourable Gentleman who spoke last but one disclosed it. I am glad, however, that it is at length discovered; for now Gentlemen may have a very clear State of the Case; which is, Whether we ought to put the Nation to the Expence of maintaining 18,000 Men, for no other Reason but because a certain Gentleman is afraid of the Pretender? This is, I think, a clear and a true State of the Case. As for the honourable Gentleman's Fears, they put me in Mind of a mad Fellow, called Butler, who used to go about, and at Times would appear very much frightened at a certain Phantom of his own Brain, whom he called Prince Kantemir. This Phantom haunted him about from Place to Place, and nothing could drive it out of his Head. Really, Sir, I don't know what Friends the Pretender may make in the Kingdom, if we shall continue our Army; but if we reduce that, I dare say his Interest would exist no where but among a few Madmen.'
'The Gentlemen who have spoke for the proposed Reduction, have all along taken it for granted, that if our Standing Army were removed, the Causes of Discontent, which is allowed on all Hands to be very great amongst our common People, would be removed likewise. But, Sir, their Opinion cannot be supported either by Reason or Experience. Reason tells us that a People who are discontented, will prove rebellious as soon as the Government becomes too weak to restrain their Outrages: And we find, Sir, by Experience, that no Reduction ever was attended by any Return of Gratitude on the Part of the common People. So that, as Gentlemen have been stating this Question in their. Manner, I shall beg leave to state it in mine. And it is, Sir, Whether it be most probable that his Majesty will abuse his Power, if we shall keep up the Army; or that his Enemies will lay aside their Designs, and the People return to a due Submission to the Civil Magistrate, in case we reduce it? Indeed I do not know what are the Sentiments of other Gentlemen; but I own, Sir, it is no hard Matter with me to determine myself in this Case; and, for this Reason, to give my Vote in favour of this Resolution.'
Walter Plumer, Esq;
The Reasoning of the Honourable Gentleman who spoke last, is not unlike that of a Physician who was called to visit an Acquaintance of mine. Two or three other Members of the Faculty were called at the same Time, and all of them, except this Physician, agreed in their Consultations, that the Nature of the Patient's Disease required Lenitives: The Reason which this singular Doctor gave, for differing from his Brethren, was, "That Corrosives were only to be "cured by Corrosives." Sir, we have long had Corrosives applied, to correct the sharp Humours of a People whose Constitution has been vitiated by a Course of severe Exactions and Taxes, without any apparent Advantage to the Kingdom. And it was reasonable to expect, Sir, that by this Time some Lenitives should have been applied. But this, Sir, it seems, is not agreeable to the Maxims of the honourable Gentleman, who last Session entertained us with the ever-memorable Speech, which he concluded by telling us from a Roman Poet, Immedicabile vulsus ense recidendum. I am afraid, that this, Sir, may indeed be the only Remedy that can be applied, if we should proceed in exasperating the People, by not only continuing but increasing the principal Grievance they have.'
Sir Joseph Jekyl.
'I acknowledge that formerly I used to give my Vote for keeping up a Standing Army in Time of Peace, because I thought we could never use too many Precautions against the growing Power and the aspiring Genius of France.
'But the Providence of Heaven has raised up another Power in Europe, which seems by the Check she has already given to the French Ambition, to be an Over-match for her in the Field: Gentlemen will easily perceive that I mean the Empress of Muscovy, whose Empire till within these few Years had but a very small Share in the Ballance of Europe. For this Reason I think there is not the least Pretence, Sir, for keeping up a Standing Army on Account of the Situation of Affairs Abroad; that Pretence being effectually removed by the sudden Growth of the Muscovite Power, from whom we have nothing to fear, either on account of their Situation or Interest. So that, Sir, the Reasons why we are to keep the proposed Number up, must be of a domestick Nature. And indeed, if I were convinced that they were of the least Use in enabling the Civil Magistrate to put the Laws in Execution, I should give my Vote without Hesitation for the present Motion. But, Sir, when I see the People of all Ranks so averse to a Law which was the only Means left by which the Legislature could prevent a total Degeneracy of their Morals, and the absolute Ruin of their Health; when I see they value themselves upon murdering the Persons by whose Information alone the Offenders against that Law can be convicted; and when I see that our regular Forces have been of no Use in suppressing those Disorders; I am inclined to suspect, Sir, that the Infection has spread into the Army itself. I am the more apt to believe this, Sir, because I had it lately from good Hands; that many of the Soldiers actually were disguised among the Mob who murdered these poor Men, and were very instrumental in the Riots. If this Infection should proceed farther, Sir, we have Reason to fear that our Army will soon be as obstinately disobedient to the Civil Magistrate as our People are, and this must produce worse Consequences than any Gentleman has yet mentioned. It may be urged, that Soldiers being subjected to the military Laws, dare not attempt to oppose the Will of their Superiors; but why should we expect from them a greater Deference to their Officers than from the People to the Justices. And give me leave to say, Sir, that a Mutiny of the Army is more dangerous than a Mob of the People, for this plain Reason, that the Punishment which attends the one is but light, when compared with what is inflicted on the other. If one or two of the Ringleaders of a Mob are made Examples, Sir, the Justice of their Country is satisfied; but the Martial Law inflicts the Pain of Death upon every Man who is concerned in a Mutiny. For this Reason, Soldiers once engaged in a Mutiny will be more obstinate and refractory than other People; because, though they should lay down their Arms, their Lives are forfeited; so that their real Safety lies in persevering in their Rebellion. Therefore, I think it is against the Rules of good Policy, Sir, for us to keep up a Body of Men, who very probably are tainted with that Spirit of Disobedience that has gone abroad amongst our People, and from whom there is nothing so bad but what we have to fear, should this Spirit induce them to throw off the Allegiance due to their Superiors.
'Thus far, Sir, I am of the same Side of the Question with my worthy Friend who fits over-against me. But, I wish the same honourable Gentleman had explained some Expressions which he dropt with regard to the Law I have just now taken the Liberty to mention. I am neither ashamed nor afraid to say, that I had a great Hand in getting that Law passed; and I think, though we had even paid the Sum for it, which the honourable Gentleman has mentioned, we bought it cheap; for it was paying 70,000 Pounds for insuring the Health and Strength of a whole People. As for the Inconveniences that may arise from the Execution of this Law, I am sensible there are several; but, Sir, I believe as few as ever attended the Execution of a Law, so unpopular, and at the same Time so necessary. However, if the further Consideration of that Law should come before us, as I believe, Sir, it soon may, I shall very willingly concur with any Motion that can put us in a Way of making it less subject to Abuse. In the mean time I am of Opinion, Sir, that it will greatly contribute to the Safety of our Constitution, and the Reformation of Manners amongst the common People, if we agree to the proposed Reduction.'
'We have had a great deal of Debate this Night about the Constitution and Government of this and other Nations: and there is no Question, Sir, but there are many different ones in the World. But I believe the People of Great Britain are governed by a Power that never was heard of as a supreme Authority in any Age or Country before. This Power, Sir, does not consist in the absolute Will of the Prince, in the Direction of Parliament, in the Strength of an Army, in the Influence of the Clergy; neither, Sir, is it a Petticoat Government; but, Sir, it is the Government of the Press. The Stuff which our weekly News Papers are filled with, is received with greater Reverence than Acts of Parliament; and the Sentiments of one of these Scribblers have more Weight with the Multitude than the Opinion of the best Politician in the Kingdom. This is the true Reason, Sir, why Prudence obliges us to agree to the keeping up the Number of Forces that was first proposed. For my own Part, it is very well known that I hate a Standing Army as I hate the Devil: But, hateful as it is, I do not know how we could live without it. And if the proposed Reduction were to take Place, the first Thing I should do, would be to shut up House in the Country, and come and live near Justice Deveil; for I do not see that any Man is safe, unless he lives either near him, or in a Barrack.
'Some Gentlemen have been at great Pains to ridicule the Fears of the Pretender as being chimerical; but, Sir, I have Letters in my Pocket, which must convince every impartial Person, that we have more to fear from the Jacobite Faction, than some Gentlemen seem to believe we have. Therefore, Sir, I shall beg leave to enter into the Particulars of an impudent treasonable Proceeding, that happened within these few Days within the Town of Leicester. On the first Day, Sir, of this very Month, several Papers were found posted up within that Town, containing the most impudent and treasonable Insults upon his Majesty and the Government, that, I believe, were ever yet committed at a Time when there was no open Rebellion in the Nation. They contained no less, Sir, than an Alarm to the People, in favour of the Pretender, and imported a Resolution of proclaiming him the tenth of June; which, Sir, by the way, is his Birth-Day. After an Insult of this Nature, Sir, committed in Defiance of the Government, in a Country Town, will any Man say that we have nothing to fear from the Jacobite Faction? Or can we imagine that the Authors of these treasonable Libels have no Abettors in the Country ? They have, Sir, I am afraid, but too many, and were our regular Forces to be reduced, I believe they would have more still; and they would soon come from threatening to acting. The Question, then, Sir, among the Populace, would not be, Who is for the King, or who is for the Pretender? They would only ask, Who is for, or who is against the Government ? And every Man, Sir, who should act against the Government, be his Motive, Ambition, Disgust, Disappointment, Principle, Revenge, or any other Cause whatever, such a Man, Sir, would be sure to have them for his Friends; for it is Recommendation enough to them, if he is an Enemy to the Government, no Matter to whom he is a Friend. Therefore, Sir, I think the Safety of the Nation, at present, requires that we should make no Reduction of our Forces.'